Question: My mom is 82 and suffers from memory loss. I live with her. I have a brother who is not around much. We have never gotten along but it's getting worse. Mom will say mean things sometimes and I don't no how to deal with it.
Dr. Amy: Being a family caregiver can be rewarding, and it can also be painful and challenging—all in the same hour! With memory loss or dementia in the picture, it’s important to remind yourself that your mom is not the same person she was before. Her brain has been weakened and she does not have the same ability to think about what she is saying. By not reacting to the mean things she says, you are showing your mom, your brother, and yourself that you understand this. Hopefully it also means that you do not heed her unkind words as much either.
When things start to get nasty, I encourage you to try to quickly redirect the conversation to a more pleasant topic. If that does not work and safety is not a problem, you can always walk out of the room and take a few deep breathes. That way, you do not have to listen to the mean things she says and you can take a few minutes to regain your balance. Because she suffers from memory loss, it is quite possible she will have forgotten what she was saying by the time you return.
Having someone you can share your caregiving experience with—someone who will lend a sympathetic ear and support and lift you up—can help ease your pain and frustration. Do you have a solid network of friends? Even if you do, you could benefit from joining a support group. It will help you a lot to share your experiences. You can also talk about your brother and what's going on there.
I send you strength!
Get helpful tips and articles like these delivered to your email.