My mother is 62 years old. For the past 15 years or so, maybe longer, she has been unbearable. My brother, my grandmother, and myself all believe she needs help but she refuses to see that she has a problem. Every time she sends me for something and I bring it, she finds a way to complain and say that it is not what she wanted.
She bickers about everything and lately has been rude to everyone, including visitors, which is embarrassing. Once, she yelled at a little girl at the supermarket for hitting her with a trolley and I was mortified. Recently, she complained about how her tea wasn’t hot enough yet my brother had just made it, and she threw the cup at him.
We don’t know what to do anymore. We love her but we can’t deal with it anymore and she needs to get help. She’s not speaking to her own mother now, and my brother is on the way out too. What is wrong with her and what can we do to help her?
The counselor’s thoughts...
If there is ever a marked change in your aging parents’ behaviour, it may be a medical reason. Please be sure your mother is checked by a physician to rule out any possible physical or drug-related reasons for inappropriate words, outbursts or actions. However, I also believe that as our parents lose their “filters” as they age, they think and act like young children. They start to lose the ability to censor their words and actions when those words are possibly rude or hurtful. You may not be able to change what your aging mother blurts out, but you can definitely control how you react to her in the following ways;
Delay your response to her words. Take a deep breath, walk into another room and think about something positive. Don’t snap back with an equally mean statement or action. Your reply could escalate the exchange.
When you feel wounded, it’s often easy to fire back a nasty sentence, which may not be helpful and may make matters worse. Try as a family with all your might not to be defensive. I know it’s not easy! Realise her statements could be based on strong emotions. Arguing with her probably won’t solve the deeper emotional issue. By not reacting on the spot whenever she says a hurtful comment, you will buy time to analyze what she really means.
Be grateful always. And try to remember the difficult moments, you’re very lucky to have had her around up to that advanced age. Many people’s parents die when they are younger and don’t have these later years to enjoy with them. She is your only mom. You won’t have the chance to secure one from else where.
Remember amidst all these, she loves you and wants your company. When dealing with elderly people, let your motto be, ‘reframe, don’t blame,’ as exasperating as she can be, spouting off without thinking will only make her feel bad. She needs your support.
Your feedbackReaders advise Daisy
Tolerance is needed
Louise Prossy Hategeka
You should learn to tolerate some degree of unusual behaviour. This will give her room to express herself and eventually, it will open her mind to sharing with you information on what might be troubling her. This will help you understand how to help her.
Try not to infuriate her
You should keep the atmosphere around her as calm as possible. In my opinion, each family member should speak to her as if nothing is wrong. People that age don’t take disrespect well. More so, they want to be in control. You should listen to her opinions and in return, she will calm down, thus giving you a way to help her.
She needs to feel comfortable around you
If your mom is acting strange, don’t argue with her about it. Sympathise with her. Be calm when talking to her about the consequences of continuing with her disruptive, hostile or aggressive behaviour. This eventually will make her comfortable to share her troubles with you.
Don’t put pressure on her
Rosette Aisha Uwimana
To me, it appears that your mother is holding some emotional pain – it’s not a mental disorder. You and your brother should reduce the pressure on her. Make her feel loved and important and at the end of the day she will open up to you, thus giving you an opportunity to help her.
She is hurting emotionally
I encourage you to put in place effective communication between your family members and your mother. The things she is doing aren’t because she is mentally ill but rather, in emotional pain. Talk to her calmly and tell her how lucky you’re to be her children. Some day she will open up to you.
Compiled by D. Agaba
She wants your attention
Jean Bosco Mutabazi
Your mother is seeking attention from her family though you haven’t realised it. Be friendly, encouraging and make time to listen to her. Include her in all family matters and treat her with respect. This will lighten her mood.
She will change
Your brother leaving home was a bad decision and it will only cause your mother more emotional damage. She will feel like a burden to her family and this may result into even stranger behaviour. Keep loving and supporting her. One day she will realise how important her family is and change for the best.
She needs psychological help
Do not get emotionally involved with your mother. Get her psychological help or perhaps, give her some space, for instance, let her go to her room or take a walk and do what she loves. Keep criticism and over enthusiastic frustration to a minimum.
Things will get ugly
No matter how much your mother will hate you for it, or even hold a grudge, take her to the hospital. Her behaviour, if not handled at this stage, might develop into something dangerous.
A doctor can help
It is obvious that your mother has a big problem and so you should consider getting her medical help. Find a doctor or psychotherapist and explain the whole situation to him/her. I believe the doctor will suggest a healthy way forward for your mother.
Try an intervention
Find responsible old relatives to talk and listen to her. This will make her feel that she still has a family that cares about her. I have seen such people; all they need is affection from their family and those around them.
Don’t abandon her
It seems that the more you tolerate her behaviour, the wilder it becomes. There are very good counselors here, seek assistance and I have no doubt that will help your mother. Furthermore, don’t consider leaving your mother alone, it will make her more depressed.