When a visit with mom goes bad – Is it me or is it her?

pushI had a terrible visit with my Mom. Things had been going so well and while I was saddened by her decline and inability to remember me, she has been pleasant to me for several months. It made me wonder, was it me, was it her, or a little of both?

She was happy to see me, but started to get contentious over the ice cubes, her laundry, the trash can liner. When I told her I started a load of laundry when she was finishing up her BINGO game, she challenged that I would be so “presumptuous” as to take her laundry and put it in the washing machine. When I told her it was in the laundry basket, she backed down. When she wanted ice cubes and there weren’t any in the freezer, she wanted to know why I took all of the ice cubes. When she saw trash in the garbage can without a liner, she wanted to know why I put trash in the can without a liner. I hadn’t done any of those things, but had simply arrived and started a load of knowing we could finish doing it together.

I recognize how frustrating this disease must be to the sufferer. My Mom has always been independent and resourceful and now she needs help. She doesn’t like it — I know I might not do so well under the same circumstances.

I marvel at her ability to easily and succinctly chide me for a perceived wrong and then be unable to finish a sentence when we are chatting about the family.

As I was leaving, I wondered if somehow, she could feel my frustration today. I thought I left my worries at the door, but did I somehow move too fast or rush her through a task that just made her mad. I remember something Bob DeMarco wrote about his mother Dotty who would say “No Push, Push” when the pace of activity was too rapid for her to process. Had I moved too fast today?

Lurking in the back of my mind, I wonder if she forgets I’m her daughter and just thinks I’m messing in business that isn’t mine to manage. Contemplated.

11 thoughts on “When a visit with mom goes bad – Is it me or is it her?

  1. First of all, kudos to you for being so open about the “hard stuff”. An issue I run into a lot with family members is they are either in a deep denial, won’t talk about it or just choose to shy away from the situation altogether.
    I don’t know if this will help or not, but I always tell my families that under the irrational behaviors, harsh words and/or bizarre conversations that their Mom/Dad is still there. The disease may choose to speak for them at times but remember it’s a disease of the brain, not the heart :).
    You’re doing a great job! Hang in there.

  2. I can relate completely to what you describe…every time I visted my mom I tried to remind myself -as I crossed the threshold- that I was entering an alternate reality. I always had to remind myself that my mom had lost all filters, that her words often did not reflect what she really meant, that her mood had nothing to do with me. But when the person still LOOKS like your mom, it is hard to remember that she is no longer in control of what she does and does not say. Our decade was a total roller coaster ride, but in the end I agree with the other comment…your mom is still there, she is just not a whole integrated person the way she once was. But she is still your mom. My mom died four years ago, and while her last decade had a lot of awful days, I will never forget the hugs-which were abundant on the good days…xoxoxo, Hallie

      1. I am writing the essays in the hope that insights/discoveries/mistakes I made during our decade will be of help to people who are experiencing the turmoil of dementia now. For example, my sister shared what I thought was a great analogy which helped me during those years…she told me to think of my mom’s brain like it was a piece of swiss cheese…and when she made sense, she was on the whole part of the cheese, and when she was mean or nonsensical, her mind had fallen into the hole. Because my mom could switch back and forth in a moment, the swiss cheese comparison was a good way to visualize what was happening. I incorporate these points into the essays. I hope they help… All my best, Hallie

  3. Hang in there Kay. Sometimes your Mum knows it’s you. Sometimes she is just comforted by your presence. And sometimes she will not know it’s you, and she will be irrationally aggressive. You are doing all you can – it’s a horrid illness, and that is that.

  4. Kay, I’m sorry to hear of the turns that your Mom’s journey has taken. It is a rough one, for sure. I hope you can take a little comfort in knowing that your ability to share your experiences is immensely helpful for me, and I’m sure for many others. My Mom seems to be on a similar course, a little behind your Mom. Your comment, “I marvel at her ability to easily and succinctly chide me for a perceived wrong” really resonated for me because my Mom does that all the time…and I keep taking it personally. Thanks for the sanity check.

    On a side note, I was visiting Tuesday and I saw your Mom enjoying the afternoon entertainer. He asked me to come into the bistro area because I had my dogs with me and he wanted me to walk around to let them visit with people. When I stopped to say hi to your Mom the entertainer said that he just had a lovely dance with her, she looked pleased!

    I keep hoping our paths will cross before your Mom moves to her new location. I’m always happy when I see her out and about, then I know it is still possible that we’ll meet.

    Keep your chin up, Kay, your Mom knows on some level that it’s you. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Thanks for the note. The community has done a good job with the new program and I know many of the staff there care for her and understand. This is therapy for me so I will keep sharing. I do hope to run into you on one of my visits!

      1. My Mom just hung up on me 3 times and told me that what I’m doing with my dogs is stupid…all before 7:30 this morning. It never gets easier and always hurts. Sigh.

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