Dealing with 'Well-meaning friends'

Discussion in 'I care for a person with dementia' started by Mousehill, Jul 11, 2019.

  1. Mousehill

    Mousehill Registered User

    Nov 28, 2018
    Mum has a couple of lovely folk who are near neighbours and she's enjoyed great friendships with them over the years. Pre-dementia and even (looking back) in the early days of dementia, she was the one looking out for her friends, offering a sympathetic ear and helping them out where she could.

    The friends are really committed to keeping in touch with mum and definitely do care about her a great deal, but their behaviour now is bringing her down and I need to find a tactful way to address this with them.

    For example, mum struggles to follow conversation now, unless it is really simple and stays 'on topic'. I've noticed that if there is more then 1 other person in the room, she really can't follow a 3-way conversation and tends to switch off and get despondent and withdrawn very quickly - and that state of mind can then set in for the whole day.

    Friend A tends to call round and talk about her family, which is lovely for mum, except she has so many children, grandchildren and in-laws, that mum gets lost very quickly. If I'm there, I feel rude leaving the room, but I know if I join in the chat, mum will get really confused! Friend A is also one of those lovely people who rushes around doing so much for others and is always exhausted and busy - but she actually spends quite a bit of time telling everyone just how busy she is - in great and glowing detail! This means a 5-minute 'quick chat' is often more like an hour!

    Friend B has been through a tough time and is quite vulnerable. Again, his idea of 5 minutes is more like 55 minutes and once he gets going, he talks on and on about himself and his problems and tries to draw me into the conversation, so I'm left feeling I can't ignore him, but I can see Mum shutting down!

    I've tried to explain that Mum is very easily confused and gets very tired very quickly, but they just say, "Oh yes - we know that!" I did have a similar conversation with a cousin who used to call round when I was there, and talk for England about all her family problems, leaving Mum confused, upset and frustrated. Now she never comes, even though I tried so hard to broach it tactfully!

    Even in her darkest moments, mum is so 'old school' she can muster a friendly 'hello!' even when she honestly has no idea who she's talking to, so the people who end up dragging her down, often leave feeling they've done a grand job.

    I can't be the only one with this problem - what does everyone else do?
  2. marionq

    marionq Registered User

    Apr 24, 2013
    Not a problem with relatives but I notice that carers often drone on about their aches and pains and family worries which seems very inappropriate when visiting the sick. It seems to me that part of their training would be to remain upbeat and professional and not to disclose too much personal stuff.

    I now know way too much about people whose names I barely know!
  3. RosettaT

    RosettaT Registered User

    Sep 9, 2018
    Mid Lincs
    It's difficult isn't it. My OH had a friend come to visit him a few weeks ago and I could see him shut down within 10mins.
    The friend came in larger than life as he usually is and banged on about all the things he had done over the previous months since he had last seen my hubby. I had already warned the friend not to expect too much. He was almost shouting at him too as tho' hubby was deaf!
    In the end I had say in a playful jokey way hubby hadn't lost his hearing and that he couldn't now follow endless switches in conversation.
    The last time the friend visited he was much calmer and hubby enjoyed his visit.
  4. Helly68

    Helly68 Registered User

    Mar 12, 2018
    This is very difficult. My Mum had a tough scene with a friend who visited her in her care home and the friend became very emotional about Mummy's obvious decline. This made Mummy very agitated indeed.
    I can see that the whole thing is upsetting for all concerned. Now my Mum is in a specific dementia unit, visitors are less likely to "drop by" and most people coming into the unit understand dementia very well. I am very happy for people to visit but do check that they understand how dementia has impacted her before they go.

    You really can't underestimate how little understanding people who have no experience of dementia have.........
  5. Rosettastone57

    Rosettastone57 Registered User

    Oct 27, 2016
    My mother-in-law had very few friends and had a history of upsetting people anyway before the dementia diagnosis. Once dementia set in, these so called friends soon fell by the wayside. In the last 2 years of her life, she didn't see them for dust.
  6. Palerider

    Palerider Registered User

    Aug 9, 2015
    North West
    Well meaning freinds are just that -well meaing but no substance

    The moment mum started to hit more difficult times in recognition and communication they instantly fell away, despite mums efforts over the years to be a good friend before the later stages of Alzheimer's.

    What can you do but move on and leave the 'well meaning' part of terminated friendships. No friend leaves a good friend whatever may come. Mums only surving friend visits every two months and she has said she will continue to visit mum until the end -but she is the only one out of many
  7. nae sporran

    nae sporran Volunteer Host

    Oct 29, 2014
    My OH's daughter likes to talk endlessly about herself or her latest boyfriend / favourite food or whatever she gets a bee in her bonnet about. I do find myself trying to remind her diplomatically, but she rarely hears another voice. I usually end up looking like I have to go and do something else, then when I have her attention just say something about a job that needs to be done at home. OH does enjoy her daughter's company and has got used to her annoying habits, and I can't restrict their time together too much. It's a hard balancing act for you trying to protect your mum @Mousehill.
  8. Sarasa

    Sarasa Registered User

    Apr 13, 2018
    Not being able to follow conversations in a group was one of the first signs I noticed of mum not being as sharp as she once was. Mum is lucky in that she has one very sensible friend that has visited her in the care home she's just moved to and knew how to react to her stories about money being stolen etc. One of her other friends I haven't trusted with mum's new address yet. She'd phone up and cry all over mum which really wouldn't help.
  9. Palerider

    Palerider Registered User

    Aug 9, 2015
    North West
    Mum has had this fairly recently, so called friends calling her and off-loading things onto her. Poor mum has been out of her mind worrying about something she no longer has a grasp on. I have since blocked a certain persons phone number so that they can no longer call her. They know full well mum has Alzheimer's that has progressed
  10. fortune

    fortune Registered User

    Sep 12, 2014
    I understand this completely as it is very similar with my mum and her visitors. But the problem is what else to talk about? Mum can't remember much about her past life and people. I tend to stick on what is happening right now eg weather, other residents at the care home etc. But as there is often nothing really going on we quite often sit in companionable silence. Then mum nods off and I wonder really why I bother visiting. I find it very difficult and don't enjoy visiting her much.
  11. Sirena

    Sirena Registered User

    Feb 27, 2018
    I have this problem with a cousin, but fortunately she visits rarely.

    As your visitors actually don't seem to know that (or maybe they just don't care and want to offload regardless) you will have to be more proactive and direct. So tell them that your mother can only follow a conversation between two people, so you will not be joining in very much, and/or when they arrive ask them to limit length of their visit to half an hour/whatever suits your mother. You could also try acting as a 'translator' if someone is telling a very long involved tale - cut in and summarise it in a couple of sentences for your mother. Or you could indicate when it is time for them to go by calling them into another room and explaining your mother has had enough. I'm afraid tact and hints aren't going to do the job.

    I found my mother's friends drifted away as her Alzheimers progressed. It's understandable, my mother no longer lived in their world. The only one who stayed loyal was a lovely lady whose own husband had dementia, so she understood it completely.
  12. theunknown

    theunknown Registered User

    Apr 17, 2015
    I also find it very difficult and actually hate going to the care home, so I have every sympathy with you. My mum's in a secure unit. My mum's often asleep when I arrive. There's no 'communication' because I don't understand what she's saying if she speaks. That makes me feel awful because I want to know what she's saying in case it's something I need to do something about. I tend to not really talk because it doesn't seem to do anything, and I just hope everytime that she knows 'I'm' there and she likes that? It doesn't bother me to sit by her and say nothing - my sister on the other hand can't deal with 'companionable silence' and tries to get responses to pointless questions. In my case, yes I hate visiting, no there's no communication, but I just hope she at least knows someone she vaguely knows is there. At the same time my sister bombarding my mum with stupid stuff takes a bit of a load of my shoulders, but if she wasn't there with me I'd just largely sit by my mum and try and understand what she was saying whilst not really saying much myself. On the plus side I enjoy having a go at my sister afterwards by asking her why were you saying such stupid things :rolleyes: ? Between the two of us my mum may grasp something, but yes, I hate visiting. To see the strong, indepedent woman I knew reduced to what she is now is horrible.

    I don't know whether it's worse or better depending on the familial relationship you had. If you've had a close relationship with your mother (or father) how horrible that that person has disappeared whilst still alive. If you had a poor relationship but now need to carry out 'duties' because of the connection it's added guilt that you're not able to feel a relationship so it's about what's expected. Nobody should ever judge what others do in these circumstances because we have no idea what they've grown up with.

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