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My mother lives by herself. She has dementia, refuses to go to a doctor, fights with her neighbors, and threatens people. What can we do?

 

Question: My 87 year old mother lives in a condo that my husband and I own. It is two hours away from where we live. Mother has dementia, refuses to go to a doctor, fights with her neighbors, and threatens people. She is also very nasty with my sister and me. She has even accused me of stealing from her since I was 19. I talked with an attorney about a conservatorship but he said until she shows signs of harming herself there is nothing we can do. She still takes care of herself, the condo, and her two dogs. It is just that she is so nasty and difficult to deal with. She is causing a lot of stress for all of us. My sister and I don't know what to do.

Dr. Amy: Your letter raises a number of points about safety, the law, your mother’s health, and your caregiving experience. First about safety and the law: You do not say what types of threats your mother is making, but as I am sure your lawyer explained, action can and should be taken if she presents a danger to herself or others. If you feel she may be capable of hurting another, I encourage you to act without delay. About your mother’s health: I am not sure  whether your mother’s behavior has changed or whether she has always been nasty to you and your sister. People suffering from dementia often have personality changes related to the changes occurring in their brains. This can result in their acting inappropriately or saying hurtful things. Is there anyone at all monitoring her health? Does she trust anyone well enough to let that person take her to the doctor—or at least give that person written permission to consult the doctor about her health? It would also be helpful if there were someone nearby who could monitor the situation. I am not sure how easy it is for you to do this, being two hours away. Somehow, there must be a way to have your mother assessed. Lastly, about your caregiving journey:  One of the best things you can do is to remain calm and redirect your mother when she is hurtful or accuses you of stealing. Do not engage in debate. This is not always easy, especially when our mother—whom we want to be loving and nurturing—is menacing and nasty. I highly recommend the book, A Dignified Life By Virginia Bell and David Troxel. They have wonderful, easy to implement ideas for dealing with challenging behavior. I also encourage you to call the Alzheimer’s Association in your area to explore support groups and resources. One of the great benefits of attending a support group is you will hear the strategies other people are using to minimize distress and maximize quality of life for both the person with dementia and the whole family.

 

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Thoughts and stories from others
  1. June 27, 2016 at 2:01 pm | Posted by judy smith watson

    MY MOTHER IS 96 AND IS ALWAYS INSULTING ME. SHE HAS LOST CONTROL OF HER BLADDER AND BOWELS AND REFUSES TO WEAR DISPOSABLE PULLUPS. HER BEHIND IS GETTING RED AND RAW. I HAVE CALLED 911 MULTIPLE TIMES TO NO AVAIL. SHE TELLS THEM SHE IS FINE AND I AM JUST CRAZY AND SHE WANTS ME OUT OF HER HOUSE. SHE TELLS THEM THAT I WANT HER HOME WHICH IS NOT TRUE. WHAT DO I DO, NO ONE WILL HELP ME.

    Reply

  2. April 3, 2014 at 11:52 pm | Posted by Theresa

    Please help. My fiancé mother is so mean. We do everything for her and she does nothing but belittle us. I wait on her hand and foot but every chance she gets she talks bad about us. I'm at my wits end. She had no one else and I just can't take this much more. Anybody that can help or give advise would be welcome.

    Reply

  3. April 3, 2014 at 5:59 pm | Posted by Beth Fullerton

    My 87 yr old mom n law has a Masters Degree in theology but was never ordained ( most likely from her nasty personality!) she has always been independent and not real close to her daughters- my husband & I would make an effort to cook roast dinners, take her to Laguna festival, spend Xmas every year and dinner out on her bday weekend, brunch on Sunday- Mother's Day etc-but will be sarcastic and mean every visit- always upset about something- it's unpleasant and all the other siblings moved out of State. We no longer want to take her out since she is so unpleasant- what to do other than a stiff drink?

    Reply

  4. February 24, 2012 at 12:56 pm | Posted by Ginger Hollien

    My mother in law has no dementia. However she is 86 with bipolar depression. She is mean nasty to her son and I. She has run off all her friends for the past 15 years it's been me and her son. We have tried many times to get the other son and daughter in law to assist. We get nothing from them. We are so tired exhausted really. Can we just step away and watch from afar? What if adult protective services comes. She talks nasty about to her neighbors who call us all the time. She is only 8 houses down from us.

    Reply

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