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Dread spending time with my mum

(47 Posts)
NotGettingThisRight Mon 18-Mar-19 11:54:17

My mum is 85 and in a care home near me. I am an only child. She is also an only child and divorced. She has never, ever been one to make friends and I am literally the only person in the world she has.

The trouble is that we have never been particularly close. She has suffered from depression most of her life and has always had a negative mindset. When she divorced from my dad she never really got over it and I feel like I have been supporting her emotionally since I was 15 (I'm now almost 50). About 10 years ago she had a stroke which has affected her speech and I think she now also has dementia so her memory is poor.

About 18months ago I moved her from her home that was 200 miles away from me to a nursing home in my town, just 15 minutes from my house. This was because she was isolated, having falls, and needed 24 hour care, and each time she had a crisis I had to drop everything and go and see her which was really difficult with my job and my family here. The move was not what she wanted but she has done well at the care home. I'd say she is happy as she ever has been but I'm sure she misses her home but she never mentions it.

The thing is that I just can't communicate with her. She will greet me when I visit her and maybe ask how I am but beyond that it is me who does all the talking. If I didn't talk she would sit in silence. We end up just watching TV together which is fine on one level but also it isn't. She used to be an incredibly intelligent woman and I think she still is but she is literally locking the world out.

She is barely mobile now and I struggle to take her out as I need help getting her into her wheelchair from the car. She says that she wants to go out and about, but if I do take her for lunch / shopping she doesn't speak at all except to say she's cold (she's always been cold, all her life and yes, I do make sure she's wrapped up good and proper) and she looks abjectly miserable throughout the trip. I feel embarrassed to be wheeling this old lady who looks so utterly forlorn about the place as it looks like I'm making her do something she really doesn't want to be doing. If I ask her if she is enjoying herself she says she is but her face suggests otherwise, so I wonder if she is saying she's having a nice time because she thinks that's what I want to hear. When I bring her back to the care home she also looks miserable and does this awful fake crying thing to try and get me to stay.

I regularly bring her in books / DVDs of things that she enjoys (well, she used to enjoy), but she won't read the books and the DVDs mean she won't talk to me. She hates any kind of games. She has no interest in people, current affairs, or family. She has no interest in clothes, beauty, books. I'd say the only thing she likes is dogs but I don't have a dog because I'm really allergic to them so I can't even do that Borrow My Doggy thing.

Does anyone have any advice as to how to reach her better? I am finding that I am in tears most times I after leave her, because she drains me so much. I am now finding myself avoiding going and that makes me feel so guilty because she doesn't have anyone else. So I utterly dread going, I struggle when I'm with her and I feel guilty once I've left her. The care home say that she's always miserable unless she's watching TV, they don't take her out much at the moment because it's still cold. In the summer they do do trips to the garden centre but she always says she doesn't enjoy the group trips.

Can anyone suggest a way of how to make this situation better for her and for me?

Happynow001 Wed 27-Mar-19 17:11:49

@NotGettingThisRight
Hi OP. Do you do anything just for yourself after you have visited her your DM? Eg a long walk, go for a run or swim, yoga or mindfulness/meditation to rebalance yourself afterwards. You are doing the very best you can for her but it must take it out of you mentally and perhaps doing something to recharge your energy? Don't forget to take care of yourself too.

Hearhere Wed 27-Mar-19 10:58:11

I think I would take up knitting and sit there knitting whilst I try to make conversation, I feel as if the movement of your hands would make it easier to talk in some way?

Inforthelonghaul Wed 20-Mar-19 07:29:26

We have tried to do things like Audio books, pictures, music etc but DM refuses all of it. Doesn’t want to change anything about her room to make it nicer even though she hates it. Everything that she used to love she has no interest in anymore, it’s almost like she’s trying make her life more miserable.

There is so little you can do to help someone else be happy if they are unable for whatever reason to do something for themselves. It’s easier to ignore the unspoken misery and do the bits you can.

OP you are already doing loads. We used to visit several times a week but it’s so draining and whatever you do it’s never enough so over time it’s reduced to what we can live with.

Galanta Tue 19-Mar-19 20:24:30

Hi OP - just to add to the chorus of people who are telling you that you're doing a great job. You really, really are and you have persevered incredibly well. I am dealing with different but equally difficult situations with both elderly parents and, while I do my absolute best to support them, I try to remember their happiness or satisfaction with life is not my responsibility. Also if you are finding it a struggle, it's ok if you only go twice some weeks or stay for a shorter time sometimes. You're an amazing daughter and should have no regrets, now or later.

Moondancer73 Tue 19-Mar-19 20:11:22

It might be worth you speaking to the manager of the care home to see if they have volunteer visitors. I worked in a care home and we used to have people who came in regularly to visit.
The manager would send them to see people who she thought would benefit most from their visits so maybe speak to yours and see if that kind of thing is available to take a little pressure off of you.
It sounds like you are doing an amazing job to me so I really don't think you should beat yourself up.

NotGettingThisRight Tue 19-Mar-19 19:55:42

Hugs (unmunsnetty ones though) to everyone in similar situations.

NicoAndTheNiners Tue 19-Mar-19 19:55:33

It does sound like you're doing a great job and she must appreciate it, which is why you get the crying when you leave. She likes having you there even if it comes across that she's miserable. Maybe stop trying to chat so much? Sit and watch tv with her, the odd little bit of conversation maybe but otherwise try and enjoy the tv/peace. It sounds like that's what she's happiest doing?

ParoxetineQueen Tue 19-Mar-19 19:49:48

Thank you all for posting, I feel like the most callous daughter in the world at times but Mum has virtually no interests. She used to love gossiping with her friends but at 92 virtually all of them are no longer with us, I live 20 miles away so I don’t even see her neighbours. She used to like knitting and word searches but can no longer even hold a pen, the TV in her nursing home ‘sounds tinny’ so she rarely watches it. She hasn’t been out of bed since last summer. To their credit the nursing home made real efforts to get her up, dressed and into the communal area but she didn’t like that and stopped going. The conversation consists of she can’t understand the ‘forrin’ nurses and how she wishes they were all English (then wonders why they aren’t caring and, how often her incontinence pad is changed.
I feel bad because I couldn’t nurse her at (her) home, like she did my grandmother but there were too many differences in our situations and I had to choose the least worst option for everyone.
Thank you for letting me have a rant and being understanding

MrsChanningTatum Tue 19-Mar-19 09:43:40

If you think that she has problems with her memory then she may have dementia. This is of course a cognitive decline, which will have effected her intelligence. This may be why she is not as intelligent as she was in previous years.

It may help to think about what her likes, interests and hobbies were in the past. Change and adapt these for now and collaborate with her on these things. For example did she used to enjoy crosswords? If so she may enjoy doing simple word searches with you now.

Even though she is compromised by ill health, the essence of your mum is the same (negative unfortunately). But she will still enjoy doing the same things she enjoyed in the past.

Have a good think about what her life roles were and what her skills were, regarding low key activities you can do together. This will increase her confidence and self esteem.

HTH. My mom is not easy either !

AnnaMagnani Tue 19-Mar-19 09:34:29

The first thing that strikes me is that you think she has dementia as her memory is bad.

So she probably does have dementia.

One of the main features of many dementias is apathy and lack of concentration.

So it's not you, it's not her, it's the dementia - she just finds it very difficult to muster up an interest in books, audiobooks, DVDs, a new activity.

If you combine this with her personality already being a bit negative this is what you have.

You are doing amazing, you have found things she really likes - watching TV together, doing a bit of shopping. You are doing everything you can and more.

Grace212 Tue 19-Mar-19 08:38:55

OP also wondering if that's too frequent

I foolishly thought I could move in with my mum....then wondered if I ought to move her nearer to me. Now I realise that's not a good plan.

SpongeBobJudgeyPants Mon 18-Mar-19 23:36:33

Some really good advice here. Having read how often you see your mother, I wonder if you are visiting too much? If you scaled down the visits, it might feel a bit better for you.

ALargeGinPlease Mon 18-Mar-19 23:22:51

NotGetting, you're doing better than me going 3 times a week. I used to try going as often as that, partly because I'd moved her near me, so I felt responsible, but I was very conflicted about how it was affecting me, in fact I asked on here about it, under a different username, and was given permission (by completely random, but lovely and wise MN's) to not visit as often and I feel so much better doing what I feel I can, which, like I say, is about half an hour once week. Sometimes I'll pop in twice a week, but I no longer feel guilty about not doing more.
Grinchly, so, so true about having all the lovely, well thought out gifts and ideas thrown back at you, especially the plant one. I took mine some flowers, when she'd hurt her arm after a fall, and she just complained about them for days, I think in the end I put them in the day room, so she didn't have to see them.
I will use the podcast idea though, thank you to whoever posted that, mine likes the radio, so I can play a Tony Hancock Half Hour or something.

Grinchly Mon 18-Mar-19 21:52:43

idlevice imaginative and thoughtful suggestions but, when dealing with folk like my m and op's - largely hollow laugh. I am not getting at your kind thoughts, just posting for those with .... special parents.

Thé cinéma? Oh no.great drama and sulking getting there, any hitch spitefully thrown back in face, monumental sulking throughout.

Watching something grow? Oh no. It will make her sneeze/ block her view/ make a mess.

Photos of past times? Brahahahah. Unless they include her, and only her, not interested. There aren't that many anyway, as she didn't keep ones that didn't include her - the ones she considered flattering.

Not. Worth. It.

NotGettingThisRight Mon 18-Mar-19 21:48:48

@ALargeGinPlease Reading your post was like reading what is in my own mind. Our situations are identical.

I visit her about 3 times a week for from 30 mins to two hours. I take her out about once a week if I can, usually for Sunday lunch.

I like the idea of taking in some sewing. She used to make quite a lot of things so maybe I can ask her advice, in as much as she can give it as I'm rubbish at sewing.

The podcasts option is also a good idea and one that I might use when she is here. I remember her listening to Desert Island Disc when I was a kid and there are loads online I could play her.

idlevice Mon 18-Mar-19 20:04:28

Would a trip to the cinema be an option for a change? Some do screenings with a cup of tea and biscuits for seniors & the smaller screens usually show a range of things, not just the blockbusters.

Podcasts? Some are only half an hour, you could have one on you might find of interest yourself when you are there doing a jigsaw or your own craft as a PP said.

Bring houseplants or something like a tomato plant you can watch grow, or a new unusual food/drink to try, just to make a little conversation at least.

My cat rescue take cats to visit homes so you would not need to be present if a dog could visit. It's really lovely if it could be arranged.

Have you got any old photos to sort out? Apparently there are lots of old videos on youtube of towns & things of yesteryear that might be diverting, at least temporarily. Most older people like to revisit the past.

Try to find the positives as you don't want to be blaming yourself, feeling guilty, thinking you could have done more, etc when she's no longer around. But you definitely have been doing great so far as everyone has said. Just being there is invaluable in itself.

Iwantmychairback Mon 18-Mar-19 19:33:56

You are an amazing daughter.
I dread this happening, my mum and dad are both over 80, in their own home and fit enough to get out and about. I still sometime struggle to find things to talk about!

What I would suggest, as well as the dvds, is to take something along that YOU want to do. Do you have a hobby like knitting or sewing, or reading, or jigsaws? See this as me time, you can be actively doing your hobby, talking to your mum about it as you go along, or reading aloud to her if she likes that, TV on in the background. Your mum may become interested in what you’re doing and join in if possible.
Sometimes just being together watching a film is enough. xx

flowersinthebedroom Mon 18-Mar-19 19:09:45

It's so hard, you have my sympathy. Things that have worked with MIL are painting her nails and hand massages, old photo albums and she has a bird feeder that we sit and watch together.

ALargeGinPlease Mon 18-Mar-19 19:04:10

I have the same situation with my mother, so much so, i wondered if i had written your op.
I no longer take her out, as she really didn't seem to enjoy it. She used to like the idea of going out, but the reality never seemed to live up to her expectations.
In terms of visiting her, i now only pop in once a week for about half an hour or so. I find it difficult to find enough to talk about to fill any more time. She never joins in the conversation, so it is all one sided. The only topic she will join in with, is talking about herself and how strange she's finding it all, since her condition worsened. But even that topic is soon exhausted as i cannot offer a medical explanation and cure, which is what she is really asking for.
She wasn't the best mother and certainly never put herself out for me, so i am coming to terms with the fact that it is not my responsibility to make her happy. She has never been happy, so it's unlikely to change now.
I do feel, there is an element of reaping what she has sown, she has never made an effort to form friendships and now she is pretty much alone. She has no desire to join in any of the activities that are organised at the home, so she stays in her room, alone and depressed. It's very sad, but ultimately not my problem to solve.

SparkyBlue Mon 18-Mar-19 18:39:58

OP my heart goes out to you and you are doing a fabulous job. We had something similar with my mil. I used to dread visiting as it was so depressing. There was absolutely nothing we could do to make her happy. She had alienated herself from people ever before she became unwell and there was nothing we could do to help her. She refused to come out on day trips as she refused to be seen in public in a wheelchair.

Grace212 Mon 18-Mar-19 18:22:30

OP I really feel for you

it sounds like you are doing an amazing job, possibly too good really! How often do you see her?

Time40 Mon 18-Mar-19 18:05:58

My father is like this. I think that you just have to recognise that you can't make someone else happy, and I agree that the best you can do is to make sure they are comfortable and cared for. Your mum probably does appreciate the fact that you are there, on some level. I'd second the idea of taking something into the care home to do while you are there - take some knitting or sewing, if you do anything like that. Good luck - it's hard, I know. Just be kind to yourself, and keep telling yourself that you are doing everything you can, and your mum's unhappiness is absolutely not your fault. You have got to keep that guilt monster in its place!

Singlenotsingle Mon 18-Mar-19 17:55:04

Tbh there really isn't anything you can do that would make her happy. Does she even recognize you when you visit, if she's had a stroke and dementia? Don't feel too bad if you just want to scale the visits back.

HollowTalk Mon 18-Mar-19 17:41:23

And you sound NOTHING like her!

HollowTalk Mon 18-Mar-19 17:41:11

I would just take a DVD (the library lends them if you need more choice and don't want to buy them) and a big bar of chocolate each and just sit and relax with her. She doesn't want to go out. She doesn't want to chat. She enjoys films and chocolate. Just do that and don't feel guilty about it!

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