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Caregiver in need of help.

My mom was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis in 2006. I'm 41 and she's 76. I'm an important not child and my dad's been dead since I was eight. My mom is in pain all the time and I'm the only one that can do anything to help her and take care of the house. She takes the pain out on me. She screams at me all the time. Gets angry at stuff from 20 years ago, and to her, it's like it just happened. I think it might be dementia now too. I can't leave her, but she's abusing me to the point of having a breakdown. I can't function properly anymore. I forget things. I lost 15 pounds since last month because my stomach and intestines are too messed up. I need advise a d help. Just to be clear, I am by no means suicidal. Just desperate and scared. Help?

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@MikeS664284wrote:

My mom was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis in 2006. I'm 41 and she's 76. I'm an important not child and my dad's been dead since I was eight. My mom is in pain all the time and I'm the only one that can do anything to help her and take care of the house. She takes the pain out on me. She screams at me all the time. Gets angry at stuff from 20 years ago, and to her, it's like it just happened. I think it might be dementia now too. I can't leave her, but she's abusing me to the point of having a breakdown. I can't function properly anymore. I forget things. I lost 15 pounds since last month because my stomach and intestines are too messed up. I need advise a d help. Just to be clear, I am by no means suicidal. Just desperate and scared. Help?


Hi Mike,

Dr. Jacobs is right: you do not need to take this abuse. I suggest that you seek out a therapist so that you are not trying out new behaviors all by yourself: you need support and a coach. There should be a mental health clinic for your county or town, or get a suggestion for someone, or use your insurance's list of preferred providers to find one that takes your insurance. Are you still working? You are young. How are you juggling all this?

         Your health of body and mind are suffering in this situation. I agree with Dr. Jacobs that she needs to know that her behavior is not acceptable. Talk to her calmly, but also leave the room when she's being rude and abusive. Put on earphones in the next room if she's yelling so loudly that you can still hear it, and put on some calm music or whatever helps you relax. (I'm a psychotherapist and one of my teenaged clients swears that heavy metal relaxes him! Whatever floats your boat!)

        Dr. J also recommends you take her to get treated for depression and aggression, too, and i'm wondering if she is indeed coping with dementia as well. I think you wrote a typo in your post: you are an "important not child" ? Did you mean you are an only child?  Or do you have siblings who could help? Does SHE have siblings? Is there an aunt that you can talk to about what's going on with her? Seems to me that opening this two person dynamic to other family members would be healthy. Do you have any cousins that she adores? Who else can you bring in and get some help/ some perspective/ someone else to see her and help out perhaps?

       Have you found out what is available to her in your community? If you look up in your zip code at www.eldercare.gov you'll find out services that might help you help her. 

       I hope you are also going to the doctor to see why you are losing so much weight. yes you are stressed out but addressing how the stress is hurting your body is a good idea so the damage doesn't get worse. I'm so sorry this is so hard. Please consider therapy for yourself. Your life doesn't just stop at age 41 because mom has an unfortunate disorder. Okay? 

 

Please write to say more and respond to our advice. We don't know you but we care!

Jane

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Dear Mike,

 

     Your mother is lucky to have you. But that doesn't mean you deserve to be mistreated simply because you are there for her when she is hurting. Here are some ideas for changing her behavior and your responses to them:

 

     --Rheumatoid arthritis is a terrible autoimmune disorder that causes severe pain and disability. I have no doubt that your mother is suffering. It is very common for people with chronic pain due to any condition to eventually develop clinical depression which amplifies their pain perception and often causes them to lash out at others. If you mother has not already been evaluated for depression by her primary care provider (not necessarily her rheumatologist), then she needs to be. It is possible that taking an antidepressant (for example, Cymbalta, which would treat her depression and pain) will in and of itself help her better control herself. If is also possible, as you suggest, that she may be developing dementia and is consequently becoming more disinhibited. Her primary care provider can evaluate her for dementia as well and, if she has it, can prescribe medications to help better regulate her behavior.

 

     --As much empathy as you have for her, I don't suggest allowing her to use you as a whipping boy. I recommend asking her at a time when she is calm, not angry, why she sometimes takes her frustrations out on you. She may not fully realize that she has been doing this until you bring it up to her; she may then make deliberate efforts to not aim her ire at you. I also recommend responding to her yellling by telling her calmly that you won't tolerate being treated badly by her. If she persists, then I suggest actually leaving the room until she calms down. The point here is not to threaten with her abandonment; I don't imagine you will ever do that. It is to make clear to her that you won't stand for her bad behavior.

 

     None of this is guaranteed to work, of course. But it sounds like you need to try some different things if you want a different result and a more satisfying relationship with your mother. Good luck--Barry J. Jacobs, co-author of AARP Meditations for Caregivers

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