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What can I do when my mom says mean things?


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!


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Thoughts and stories from others
  1. December 4, 2014 at 8:48 am | Posted by Mark Babbitt

    Your mother is not saying mean things. It is the malfunctions of her brain that are causing her to say those things. Whether it's dementia, Alzheimer's or any other underlying cause, such as the ever encroaching fear of death, your mother, as well as anyone else in that position, can't always control what comes out of their mouth. I agree that there are times you need to walk away or just bite your tongue, smile and change the subject. They may no longer be capable of being that person you knew and love, but this is no time to stop loving them and doing all you can for them.


  2. December 4, 2014 at 5:51 am | Posted by Wendy

    I stayed with my Mom earlier this year. She had dementia which developed into Alzheimer's. When I first moved in things went great but soon deteriorated. I was able to get her into a wonderful nursing home a mile away from my home. When she started saying mean things at first I was very hurt but then I realized that she still loved me. Over the years we had disagreements and arguments but we both knew we still loved each other. That doesn't change even with illnesses. So when your Mom says mean things just remember she still loves you and needs you around. Good luck and God bless!


  3. December 3, 2014 at 9:26 pm | Posted by A Currie

    Iam. The one that has early. Onset. Of demicia


  4. December 3, 2014 at 5:39 pm | Posted by Bob DeMarco

    When Dementia Patients Say Mean Things, What Can You Do? Bob DeMarco, Founder Alzheimer's Reading Room


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