Saturday, August 16, 2008

Are we dealing with, dementia or plain meanness?

Back to our simple quietude which we do not appreciate until we have a week like this which was. While we loved every minute of their visit, tonight we crash--a week of son, DIL, and grand daughter took its toll. That with the late night Olympics broke our routine, especially mine.

Activity all week--starting Sunday with their arrival. That was the day Jerry's mother, 91 years old decided to act out. For a bit now she has been exhibiting very nasty tendencies toward me. Most of this happens when people are not around just her and me--sleers,nasty comments, insults, etc. I get annoyed but walk away. Sunday though after providing dinner and having her here to be part of the company, she began her laments about her Oceanside tribe. They are Jerry's dead sister's progeny--the ones who have done everything but assassinate a president. They are alums of every penal institution in and out of CA including Folsom prison; but in her eyes the cops have always picked on them. Yeah right--innocent druggies, robbers, etc.

Many years ago in CA as a favor for a friend who was at the CA Youth Authority, I chaired some promotional panels around the state to develop lists to promote managers (officers) within the Youth Authority System. In Chino, the warden of Chino prison served on the panel. As we chatted I told him that my nephews were alums of his institution; he knew them. Recidivistic grads. So far now 2 are dead from police related incidents--one shot by police swat team in Oceanside in the 70's at the age of 15 or so; one committed suicide in jail just last year. Anyway quite the group. But in their grandmother's eyes they're innocents. Believe that and we have a bridge to sell you cheap.

It is a sore subject in this house. Jerry has defended me from the old lady in the past who promptly forgets what she says. Since no one will push to have her tested for dementia, so that we know what we are dealing with, this behavior is ignored. Her adult children say, "that's just Mom." We need to know is she really crazy, can she be medicated, can she be committed to live where they see to her taking the right pills, is she just acting out for attention, is she manipulative?

I knew it would be tough with Aunt Marie gone. I was right. Aunt Marie kept Florence some what in check, till her last years of frailty.

So here we are having a good day to start off and here is the 91 year old talking about her tribe. And ain't' it awful what lives they have had. Ain't it awful how sad, etc. I heard enough. This makes everyone uncomfortable to say the least. And this never comes up around Jerry because he will not tolerate it! So it's me, DIL cleaning up after dinner in the kitchen and the old lady watching us. In my own home and feeling I can say something, I suggest to Florence that she talk about something pleasant. With that she (Jerry's mother )goes off on me: "Well this is MY FAMILY. We are not up to your class. You, Pat, live in your own little world where everything is perfect, everything is wonderful..... '' On she went snarling at me and throwing her arms about. You haven't seen anything till you have seen this 4'10" nasty old grey haired unattractive lady carry on.

Many in her family said she has always been nuts. She did time in the mental hospital in her 20's committed by one of her sisters. Not playing with a full deck and certainly not today. I say something again, like, "just talk about something pleasant, Rod, Sophia, Barb, " "Well" she yells I don't know anything pleasant. After all you go by every day and you never stop in to see if I need anything...." By this time I bite my tongue and walk away. And yet I know that if I attack back it will make me look worse. See she has an audience--DIL. This goes on and I walk off into my own living room, mumbling to Jerry. DIL takes old lady outside and calms her as a timeout. Before being taken to her own home, Florence tries to offer a bit of an apology quoting the Bible that the tongue will get her in trouble---I walk off again.

I don't know what she's up to this time, but I will have no more of it. I do not deserve this. This is not the first time I've taken such crap from her. After all, the reason she lives around us is no one else wanted the responsibility of her. In 1990father in law died: we got the old maid! No gratitude for all we have done and change that to me. Her 80th birthday party; her 90th birthday party, finding her mobile home in the Sr. Park in Newcastle; taking her to church; introducing her to folks. What to do. Descend to her level? Then again, in her demented mind she has pulled it off again. Jerry is more than fed up but what to do. He said after her 90th when she did not even thank me that "no more will you do these parties for her even if she lives to be 100."

Last night we take her to dinner with everyone, which is an inconvenience--having to take 2 cars and pick her up. At dinner she acted like she'd never been in the restaurant; I remind her she's been there many times. She snarls at me again. I order a Margarita and drink it and ignore her. DIL sits next to her and helps out. What an angel, Angel is! We take her to see the sand sculptures on the river and DIL as sweet as she is, holds her hand and walks with her. Old lady grins knowing she has a patsy.

Well after some rest, I do intend to tell her that I shall no longer be available. She can torment whomever she chooses, count me out. Maybe it's time she moves to CO with her daughter. Me thinks she knows what she's doing; and thinks folks will think,,,"such a sweet little old lady." NOT

But as my friend, Sandy, advised me today, "you do not like to lose and you do not like to be out of control. You will win this one too..And where was your bottle of vodka?."

This has taken time on my blog but someway I have got to stop this abuse. My mother is long dead and I would not tolerate this from her. We fought. There are only so many chances in this life and biting the hand that feeds soon cuts that hand off. Even if the biter is senile. I know that people can only make you feel bad if you allow their garbage into your head---now what's wrong with me? Our favorite old friend, adopted Mom, Helen Kiker who died at the age of 98 in NV the same day as Aunt Marie always said, "Old people just don't get to be crabby and nasty. They were crabby and nasty when they were younger. People just become more like what they are as they age."


  1. Wow. I cannot believe they aren't any posted comments to this. However, let me say this, my heart goes out to you Pat because this is such a hard place to be in. I wonder how things are now as I notice this is dated from 2008. Anyway, I thinks it's awful when people make excuses for people's bad behavior like "that just Mom." That's not good enough and bad behavior does need to be confronted and not fed with more attention.

    You're in a hard place because this is not your mom and it will make you look like the mean one if you stick up for yourself or confront her which is such baloney! I feel for you. My own mother became very mean the last few years of her life and I think she had dementia - it was never diagnosed.

    I work as a nurse and see many patients with dementia act out in mean ways. I'm not sure what makes the brain respond in this way. The brain does tend to atrophy (shrink) in people with dementia and/or Alzheimer's. There are some ways to diagnose dementia by doing mental screening exams. It's quite possible that your mother-in-law may not be very amenable to going to a doctor. Medicines like Aricept can slow the progession down in some cases of dementia, but there is nothing to stop or reverse the dementia.

    If you haven't already talked to your family members about this I recommend talking to them about getting her on a medication such as Aricept and/or Namenda. It will never make her kind and caring, but it may help to slow the progression of dementia down. If you could word it in a way that it is in her best interest, the family members be then be supportive of this.

    You shouldn't have to be dealing with a mean person like this in your family at your age. And you are right to try to make things positive and talk about positive things. There are many reasons for this . . . some are religious, some are spiritual and some are for physical well-being. There are many reasons to try to be positive and act in a positive way.

    Again my heart goes out to you and I wish you the best whatever is happening with you right now.

    Austin, TX

  2. Thank you Elizabeth.....much has happened since then. She (MIL)N is now in a Skilled nursing facilitywith dementia diagnosits in our small town and lo an behaold she is finally nicer to me especially likely becuae tho' there is a diagnosis of dementia she knows we are the ones who look after her. It has not been easy. I just cannot being myslef to be as mean to her as she has been. I have dealt with Alzheimers with my own mother in PA who fortunately died suddenly. MIL is doing better than she has for years. I think she enjoys the attention in the SNF. Hubby is fine with this and tries his best but the rest of them are still thinking "it's just Mom..." I hope you see my response because as you responded anonymously I could not reply directly to you. Thank you for commenting.

    I had an administrative career with LTC in CA and have read everything I can find about dementia. I have never seen anyone this mean and devious, I think that is just part of her too. She has always been selfish, I find her daughter is the same. Is that genetic or environmental? I wonder about that a lot.

  3. Hi Pat: I am recently recovering from a verbal attack by my 97 y/o mother-in-law very similar to what you have written. It warms my wounded heart to read your blog. My in-law's meanness triggered my wounded child and I moved out for four days and found refuge in a friend's house. The quiet solace was so healing. I now understand what happened and am more aware and alert. How does one relax?

    When I requested that she just treat me with respect, she wagged her finger at me and stated she is a vindictive person and has in the past disowned anyone who has done her wrong and she will again. And then proceeded to ignore me for days as if I didn't exist.

    Things are somewhat calmed down now with her. I at least am feeling better. did you find any particular book helpful about this subject? I just found a referral to "The 36 hour day" as a possibility. Thank you again. Shirley

  4. Shirley, I have not heard about that book, let me know what you think. As an update, today as of September 2010, MIL is in the Nursing home in town in the personal care arm. This gives us a big relief and she has almost done a 360 in treating me better. Of Course, I do her laundry and go there several times a week. But the other week after we returned from our trip she was on a rip again and I had the misfortune of appearing that day with a pair of shoes for her to try on. When I got home, I told Jerry, "that old lady is a pain in the a#@" He said, "well when did you figure that out!" I guess now that I have medical proof that she is not all there, it does not affect me as badly.

    I look back now and know she was demented long ago, but her adult children, even Jerry shrugged her off. They long ago learned to ignore her and let it go like water off a duck.

    It was hurtful to me too. Does your MIL live independently? It is not possible to reason with a demented or mentally ill individual, remember that in your interactions with her. Sorry you shared my pain.