Is that it? The past no so much forgotten as re-remembered in this vile, toxic form?

Discussion in 'I care for a person with dementia' started by PhoebeAlexander, Sep 22, 2017.

  1. PhoebeAlexander

    PhoebeAlexander Registered User

    Aug 23, 2017
    I am so distressed at the moment.

    My mother has never been particularly 'motherly' with me - more like a vain, competitive jealous sister I realise now I have become a parent myself. I simply realise that I think and behave completely differently with my children to the way my mother does. That said, I could hardly say I was abused as a child.

    But now: my mother, who lives just two doors down, seems to be trawling through her memories of her entire life and reinventing everything, generally to cast herself as a brave heroic victim, battling the odds in the face of appalling cruelty. In the last couple of years, since she started showing symptoms... I have had to listen to her making vile allegations and startling 'disclosures' about her own parents and siblings and also of old friends who are falling away as her behaviour becomes increasingly self-centred and unpleasant. Since my father died last year, she and I have been locked in a sad and angry situation where I have supported her day to day, trying to adapt her life and adopt strategies that will help her cope and live life to the full. Her attitude towards me has been combative and autocratic and she has gone around behind my back accusing me of bullying her. Because of that, I suppose, I have withdrawn quite a bit, just having minimal contact, leaving her lonely and bored.

    My brother, who lives several hours away, was initially disbelieving when I tried to engage him on the issue but now no longer denies she has issues because he was there for her driving assessment earlier this week. They have refused to return her license of course. I have struggled to get him to help support her much but now, suddenly, he has swooped in like some guardian angel to 'rescue' her and transport her away from the house she claimed to love and would never leave, so she can have a golden, perfect life with him, away from her cruel daughter. That's me, by the way. Yesterday, she told me to my face that she couldn't wait to leave and that she knew I couldn't wait either. When I asked her how she thought saying things like that made me feel she said 'I don't know, and I don't care.' she went on to say that I had physically pushed her around and screamed in her face on numerous occasions (I haven't) that she had tried hard to love me all my life but that I hated her since I was a baby, had repeatedly told her I hated her (untrue), I told her then, trying so hard to get through, that I loved her and she just stood there shaking her head, saying that was the first time I had ever said it to her (untrue, of course). I asked her to remember all the help I had given her since my father died and she said 'you have never helped me, I would never ask you to, I don't want you to.' Lovely.

    I just feel like my whole life with my mother has been reinvented through this awful filter where I am a terrible person. Will this stay? Is it too late to reform her memories to reflect something more like the truth? I am having counselling at the moment. I took myself there a few months ago to help me cope with how she has been since my father died i.e. hugely emotionally demanding and needy - I suppose because of our dysfunctional relationship I have found this overwhelming and difficult, but this total dismissal of me is worse. I am just so distressed.

    In the meantime, I do support her move to be close to my brother. She has demonstrated little or no interest in our children. When she is with them she just talks about herself, so they feel no real loss at her going. (By the way, she belatedly wants a fantastic relationship with her grandchildren and has told me its absence is my fault for poisoning them against her). She has always had better relationships with men so she will listen to my brother and allow him to tell her what to do. This will give her a better quality of life as she definitely needs increasing guidance and management.

    What have others experienced? Is this truly her reality now? I have seen her reinvent memories over other people but now she has done it with me, and I also loathe the idea that my brother thinks all these accusations are true. I thought people with dementia just forgot... by the way she has no diagnosis as she refuses to be assessed and denies she has problems. My trying to get her to accept and adapt to her situation has been very poorly received to put it mildly.

  2. Grannie G

    Grannie G Volunteer Moderator

    Apr 3, 2006

    With your mother having dementia there is no way you can influence her delusions, for that is what they are.

    Dealing with dementia when the relationship has been poor is very difficult as I have also experienced . I'm not prepared to go into detail about my own relationship with my parents but needless to say they thought they were the ones who were badly done to by such an ungrateful daughter who caused them so much worry.

    It's all gone now. People can't help how they are if they are naturally selfish and ignorant. All you can do is the best possible for your own family and in your own relationships . Let the cycle of emotional and other forms of abuse stop with your generation and pave the way for loving and compassionate relationships which will pass to future generations , fuelled by your influence.

    It can be done. We don't all need to be a product of our upbringing.
  3. Julia B

    Julia B Registered User

    Apr 13, 2015
    Hello sweetie, sorry to read how this is for you, what I will say is the illness can tend to increase particular facets of a persons behaviour, and this sounds like your mums behaviour is magnified. My MIL's traits are exaggerated now and it's very hard work.
    The honest truth? From what I read you are lovely, have a family and will be better off when your mum is being looked after by your brother. Visit by all means, but for your own health and well being don't let this upset your own life. Good luck to you x
  4. Delphie

    Delphie Registered User

    Dec 14, 2011
    I really feel for you Phoebe. As hard as it undoubtedly must be to see a beloved parent succumb to dementia, those of us who have had less than perfect parenting face a very different but equally devastating emotional journey as we try to come to terms with the past while battling through a present that requires of us love, patience, understanding and all manner of other saintly attributes that's hard to rustle up on demand.

    I saw my mum reinvent memories too and the most painful for me was how she came to view my stepfather. This was a man who abused me under her nose, while she chose to look the other way. At least at the time she had no illusions about what he was like. I know, because when I told her about the abuse her exact words were oh you know what he's like! So she knew. Didn't try to defend him. Ignored it, because staying with a wealthy man was more important to her than her child.

    He died some years ago and she got what she'd always wanted, which was all the money. It sounds harsh typing it out but this is exactly how it was. While he was still alive, I asked her once or twice why she stayed with him (what happened to me aside, it was a terrible, loveless marriage) and her answer was because she would only get half if they divorced whereas if she waited until he died (he was much older) she'd get the lot.

    Once dementia took hold, though, he became Mr Perfect and it gave her great pleasure to 'reminisce' about this ideal man and the life we'd all had together. To begin with, it was like being punched in the gut and I tried to reason with her, to remind her of how things had really been but you can't reason with dementia. So I developed coping strategies, as much as one can. I wouldn't get drawn into those conversations, would change the subject, sometimes I'd just leave. Leaving became my 'thing' actually. I'd leave if she became abusive towards me too.. There's just so much a person can cope with.

    She 're-invented' all kinds of other things too. Lots of delusions. Lots of false memories. If they were benign I'd just let her carry on...

    So yes, sometimes a new reality arrives for us to cope with, on top of everything else. Is that it for good? My guess is yes and no. Yes for now but it's probably a phase. If it is dementia things will progress, and in my case there was even a nice period when my mum stopped 'remembering' her wonderful husband but still remembered me and we had some nice times, just chatting, often about nonsense but the emotional punches softened. Now, most of the time she doesn't know who I am and conversations as such have stopped. I chat to her, she sometimes answers, but almost never in a way that suggests she understands what's being said to her. Me: look at those lovely flowers mum. Mum: he will need socks.

    Let me leave you on a positive, of sorts. You are being released from the role of carer. Good! And your brother, though I don't wish that on him for a moment, might well become her next target. That's the way it seems to go, with those closest and most involved getting attacked the most. So don't worry too much about him believing what is said about you. Not much you can do about that beyond stating your case. But in your shoes I'd leave things to play out once he takes over. If he has no problems and does a great job of having her near him and seeing to her needs then great. But if things are less than rosy after a while you can be there for him. You can spread the emotional load between you a bit.

    It's hard, so I wish you luck. You deserve love and respect and I hope that the counselling will give you the tools to really know this.
  5. karaokePete

    karaokePete Registered User

    Jul 23, 2017
    N Ireland
    I am on this forum because I care for my wife, who has Alz & Vasc D.

    However, some years back my wife cared for my MIL, who was never a nice person, and your mum sounds exactly like my MIL was when she suffered from Vasc D. The MIL's Social Worker actually ended up telling my wife to stay away as the lies her mum was telling about her(which the Social Worker knew the truth of) were a danger to her. We just let my estranged BIL take over and he stuck the MIL into a CH quicker than her feet could touch the ground rather than try to care for her, whereas we had worked for years to fulfil her wish of keeping her in her own home.

    In the end we were glad about the result and broke off contact with both the MIL and BIL.

    Don't beat yourself up about it. We can only do our best and ignore the lies.

    All the best to you.
  6. ellejay

    ellejay Registered User

    Jan 28, 2011
    Hi Phoebe,
    I too had a difficult relationship with my mother, so understand some of what you are feeling. It is difficult when, despite doing your best , you get the blame for everything, both real & imagined.

    It's been said on here, You can't change how someone behaves, you can control how you deal with it.

    In my case, I distanced myself emotionally & my mums behaviour toward me was more upsetting for my OH than for me.

    I hope you keep a good relationship with your brother, I daresay he'll be on the receiving end at some point.

    Take care of yourself :)

    Lin x
  7. Lawson58

    Lawson58 Registered User

    You have found yourself in a dreadful situation and I think there is one thing that strikes me and that is it seems as if your life had been dominated by your mother. You have responded admirably and selflessly and done your very best to care for her even when her behaviour is dreadful.

    I think for your own sake and the welfare of your family that you need to take yourself out of the situation and let your brother get on with 'rescuing' your mother. I am sure your counselor will be telling you that this the decision you need to make. He will discover soon enough that she is difficult and even if he is able to keep her stable, then that lets you off the hook. I would also be inclined to stay out of contact with her for a while to give her time to settle and time for you to recuperate.

    I often try and put myself in the shoes of the person with dementia, wondering what it must feel like when memories are no longer, when you are trying to exist in a world that is a confusing fog. For some people, it must be a very scary thing especially if you have been very independent or a controlling sort of person.

    So then I have to wonder if people who fabricate stories aren't trying in some ways to fill the gaps or in the case of your mum, reinvent the past because that's what they had wanted their lives to have been like. They fantasize because they have lost the reality and just doing their best to compensate, not realizing that their stories are quite inappropriate and totally ridiculous.

    Unlike most people with dementia, OH's short term memory has functioned reasonably well until this year when I know that it is slipping. His long term memory has always been an issue though he denies it. Some time ago, he asked me if I could remember much of my childhood home and it appears that he cannot recall anything about his even though he lived there till he was twenty-two years old.

    He never talks about growing up, what he was like as teenager or even his own children when they were growing up.

    I just can't imagine what that must feel like. So much lost.
  8. Loopiloo

    Loopiloo Registered User

    May 10, 2010
    #8 Loopiloo, Sep 22, 2017
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2017
    Dear Phoebe, what a dreadful time you have had. I second what everyone has written. Especially what Grannie G said:

    I am another whose mother/daughter relationship was to put it mildly ‘difficult’. She did not have dementia, died aged 87 with her mind as sharp as a razor - and her tongue. I don’t know what I would have done, how I would have coped, if she had had dementia.

    She was a hypochondriac but also did have health problems, spells in hospital; I was always there for her, and when she was dying of cancer. It is what you do, she was my Mum, I loved her. But on top of 62 years of verbal abuse - and when younger physical aggression - I simply do not know how I would have managed with dementia part of it. Both my husband and myself did all we could for her, but dementia added to it would have been a nightmare on a different scale.

    You and the others with similar experiences have my sincere sympathy and admiration. My mother was very similar to what you each describe. I grew up being told all my life that I was never wanted, she never wanted a girl, had my brother been born first I would never have existed.

    That upset me less than the rest of it throughout growing up and adulthood. The accusations, lies to others - she was an excellent actress and people actually believed her - the delusions ( with no dementia. I dread to think how she would have been had she had it) and all the rest of it. Selfishness, self-love, vindictiveness, autocratic, etc., etc. In retrospect I saw that I spent my whole life trying to win my mother’s love. An impossible thing to wish for, let alone ever achieve.

    My brother who was her brown eyed boy abandoned her when she was 80, just disappeared out of our lives. She adored him. My mother also preferred men to women, she turned all the women in the family against each other.

    It does affect you deeply, as you know. But to suffer what you and others have and then have dementia worsen it; to do your best to help your mother through that to no avail, must be hell.

    However I do very much agree with Sylvia when she says “we don’t all need to be a product of our upbringing”.

    Phoebe, you have done your utmost for your mother, you can do no more. Your pain will not disappear overnight but you have nothing at all to reproach yourself about. You must now put your own well-being and of course that of your children, first and foremost.

    I am lost for words and can only wish you well now as you get your own life with your family back again.

    Sorry to write so much.

    Loo xx
  9. Rosettastone57

    Rosettastone57 Registered User

    Oct 27, 2016
    Hi this all sounds sadly very familiar. My mother-in-law has been a nasty controlling narcissistic individual all her life my husband and I have kept her at arms length all throughout our marriage. Now with the dementia we have just continued to keep her at arm's length at the same time making sure she has what she needs for her own welfare. My husband deals with her only out of a sense of duty. She has lied all her life to other people about us about other family members about anybody who doesn't come up to her needs and wants as she expects. Of course she can't see that she has actually driven people away over the years.

    With a dementia the lies have just continued of course, in fact her behaviour has been so poor over the years that it took us quite a long time to twig that she had dementia. It's hard for my husband to be on the receiving end of such odious behaviour where as it's easier for me being more detached as an in-law to see it certainly as a product of a sick mind. No one should beat themselves up over this and no one is duty bound to be a carer.
  10. PhoebeAlexander

    PhoebeAlexander Registered User

    Aug 23, 2017
    thank you all for your kind words and good advice

    I am blown away by how kind you all are to reply so thoughtfully and at such length. It means a huge amount to hear your words of wisdom - I only wish it was not so hard won. Your difficult experiences must be hard to share but at least it shows I am not alone.

    So, I will:
    - inform my brother that I will help him in any way I can if he would like me to but that I will not be directly involved.
    - stop seeing my mother on my own. I need protection to (hopefully) stop her behaving this way and I need witnesses if she does.
    - acknowledge these horrible accusations and refute them as delusions, (if that even needs doing,) just to protect myself.

    Right. I have a plan. Onward!
  11. PhoebeAlexander

    PhoebeAlexander Registered User

    Aug 23, 2017
    Thank you Julia, your reply made me cry (again) but in a good way I think... it's the need to grieve and move on, I suppose. I know it, but it helps to hear it expressed by others too. x
  12. PhoebeAlexander

    PhoebeAlexander Registered User

    Aug 23, 2017
    I think your insight is absolutely correct, this is exactly what it feels like she is doing.. floating around in a fog, grabbing scraps of memory and making a story she can believe. She can't - of course - take any personal responsiblity for anything in her life she feels has not gone well. Her lack of inhibition and empathy make blaming me instead a useful solution. No love lost. I was just deluding myself. Ah well, it's no use crying over a mother daughter relationship that never was. Thanks again and so sorry for your own loss. A 'loss' is what it is. Incidentally, a psychiatrist might tell you that being unable to recall memories of childhood can be an indicator of trauma, but you probably know that.
  13. Bunpoots

    Bunpoots Registered User

    Apr 1, 2016
    A lot of these posts sound very familiar to me too. It was my MIL who was controlling, unreasonable and blamed me for everything that was wrong with her life. When her son and I divorced some 13 years ago it would have been amicable until she stuck her oar in. It was difficult and painful to deal with at the time. I was constantly stressed by the thought that she was telling evil tales about me to all and sundry.

    Over the years since my divorce it's become a bit of a family joke when anything goes wrong for her that it must be my fault and last week I got proof of this:
    On Wednesday (I kid you not) I got the blame for her husband being injured at a football match. I haven't been near them for 13 years. But apparently if I hadn't caused them stress all these years it wouldn't have hurt being knocked to the ground by a heavy football, and he wouldn't have broken his nose...

    Even my ex stuck up for me :)

    She still hasn't been diagnosed :rolleyes:
  14. Amy in the US

    Amy in the US Registered User

    Feb 28, 2015

    Hello and welcome to Talking Point. I'm very sorry to hear about the situation with your mother.

    I haven't time at the moment for quite the reply I'd like to write, but couldn't read and not respond.

    Just a few points. Forgive me for starting with some of the practical and physical, first.

    Although your mother hasn't had a diagnosis, and you understand that nobody can diagnose her over the Internet, it sounds as though there is clearly something wrong. Because there can be physical problems that cause dementia like symptoms (thyroid problems, vitamin deficiencies, others) and because if there are other medical issues going on that aren't treated that can be unhelpful in dealing with dementia, or where certain medications might not be indicated (blood pressure, diabetes, other neurological issues, others), then at some point, a trip to the GP/doctor and a referral to the Memory Clinic might be an idea. There are some strategies that can be employed to accomplish this and we can get into that if you're interested.

    I also think, that in the UK, and I may be wrong, that some services and benefits are better assessed, or not awarded, until or from the date of diagnosis, and that getting a diagnosis is a way to move someone into the system or on the radar, as it were. The experts here will know more about that. (My apologies, as I don't live in the UK and barely understand how things work where I am.)

    Let's say this is dementia, of whatever sort and at whatever stage of progression. (You can read about all that sort of thing here:

    Dementia is not just about memory loss. The brain is affected in different ways and different types of dementia can cause different types of damage and symptoms. Memory loss can be part of dementia, but so can other issues. Often, looking back, what many of us noticed first was more like a personality change, or more subtle behavioural changes. That is definitely what I saw with my mother (who has Alzheimer's disease and poor short term memory).

    I would ask you to consider to please stop expecting yourself to be able to persuade her to accept or adapt. If she has dementia, it is quite likely that for neurological reasons, her brain isn't working properly, and she cannot (sometimes or always) understand there is a problem. No amount of discussion or explanation can fix brain damage; it is like asking a person with a broken leg to hop up a flight of stairs on it. From your standpoint, it's like banging your head on a brick wall repeatedly.

    One of the hardest things for me about dealing with my mother's dementia diagnosis was the steep learning curve. Specifically, learning that logic and reason were no longer (usually) applicable, as they would be in conversation or discussion with most people. I had a hard time with that one, although it helped that pre-diagnosis, my mother was not logical or reasonable, and was stubborn. Dementia did not improve those qualities in her, to say the least.

    You might have a look at these documents, which outline some communication strategies for interacting with persons with dementia:


    You sound very distressed, and no wonder. There is a lot going on that you are trying, understandably, to deal with. The issue of not having had a good relationship with your mother adds another layer to this.

    I also had a rocky relationship with my mother. While never abusive or outright neglectful, let's just say that she didn't do the job I wanted her to do. We were not close for almost all of my adult life, with years of little contact. This adds another dimension when there is dementia or another illness to be dealt with, and makes an already challenging situation, that much more complicated.

    I also wanted to say to you that yes, at one stage of her illness, my mother did exactly what you are talking about: took bits and pieces of memories and the past and re-wove them into a new and different history. Some of it was accurate, most of it was not, and there was a lot of vitriol and distress and an alarming lack of inhibition. It was, in short, horrible, and I am very sorry if this is what you are experiencing.

    I would like to emphasize that you are not a bad person! This is important to remember, as all too often we end up feeling like the enemy, when in fact the disease is the problem, not us. Also, in the UK, as you may know, there is no duty of care by an individual; the state has the duty of care. If you need to back off partially or completely from this situation, for your own mental and physical health, then that is what you need to do.

    I have to run but am happy to return and answer questions or speak more completely about points I've mentioned.

    I would also suggest, as someone else here no doubt has, that you not visit your mother by yourself for the time being. The presence of another person may help curb some of the worst behaviour, but will also give you reassurance and assistance.

    Very best wishes to you. This is horrible and I'm so sorry.
  15. Fullticket

    Fullticket Registered User

    Apr 19, 2016
    Chard, Somerset
    There is very little left to say, as others have said it much more eloquently than I. Suffice to say, my relationship with my mother has always been rocky:-
    I was not a boy (had I been she would not have had another child);
    I was so stupid I might need remedial education (in truth my dad and I ran rings around her comprehension so it was probably just jealousy, though I was too young to appreciate this)
    I was ugly, not like the girls in her sister's or brother's family (I have usual number of eyes, ears etc, all in the right place);
    I did not attend her father's funeral (she didn't tell me he had died!);
    I will never make anything of my life and will be reliant on the family forever as no-one will ever employ me (I ran my own business, worked in HE and now still work part time in a responsible job)
    It goes on - I can laugh about it now.

    According to her, I slept with any man that I came into contact with, especially male bosses (that was an awkward one on occasion and I am actually very particular who I sleep with!) as I was so unpleasant and ugly that I was just grateful for the attention;

    So I fully concur with everyone's comments that you should leave it all to your brother for a while (oh that I could have that option!) and urge you to concentrate on your own family and wellbeing and try to enjoy your life again. Whatever we give out in life, I believe we get back tenfold and you sound as if you have given more than your share.

    Hugs xx
  16. canary

    canary Registered User

    Feb 25, 2014
    South coast
    These delusions (fixed false beliefs) and confabulations (taking fragments of memory and weaving them into a completely false story) are, Im afraid, part and parcel of dementia. I have been accused of stealing their money, of making up lies about them, of taking them over, preventing them from doing things and hitting them; I have been told that I have always hated them, that I delight in making things difficult for them, that Ive changed and become twisted and evil; Ive been blamed because OH cant cook anymore, or if he insists he doesnt need a coat and gets cold and (apparently) I was the one who suggested that he watched pornography!

    Im afraid that this is the product of a damaged brain; they cant help it and they really think its the truth. Some of the things are so bizarre that it is actually funny, but a lot of it is hurtful and even knowing that its delusions and confabulations doesnt help.

    Step back from your mum and leave your brother to deal with it. I can guarantee that although he is the golden boy at the moment, her delusions and confabulations will be transferred to him. If your brother thinks that he is "rescuing" her, he may discover that he has a tiger by the tail. Try not to smirk when he comes back begging for your help.
  17. Rosnpton

    Rosnpton Registered User

    Mar 19, 2017
    This is so familiar,and it's both reassuring and so sad to read how many others have a similar situation.
    My mum had to go into care April last year as dad had an accident leaving him in hospital 16weks.before this,we had carers twice a day,she was meant to attend a daycare centre twice a week (regularly refused to go) and me and my dad doing the rest. She has Alzheimer's ,is double incontinent,no longer walks, and is in poor physical health.
    Unfortunatly,she is a high functioning Alzheimer's patient,and can tell a plausible story .

    She told a carer when in a fit of temper,that she wished when I was born prematurely I hadn't lived as she on,y wanted a son and I had always disappointed her.

    She said I was abusing her when changing her filthy pads and was seen to tip a pot of tepid tea over her head when I was in the care home and scream I was trying to burn her!

    At a &he following a fall she kicked me and bit me ( lessen learnt-don't put dentures in if going to hospital) badly enough I needed stitch and tetanus .

    The care home now accept how manipulative she can be,and I now longer visit alone unless there is an emergency . That way there is always a witness to what is said or done,which safeguards me.

    At the end of the day you need to do what is right for you and your family. Let you brother deal with it now.step away and have a quieter life.

    Ros x
  18. john1939

    john1939 Registered User

    Sep 21, 2017
    Several months ago my wife rang the police to report that I had murdered two people and had buried them in the front garden. A police car soon arrived with two constables who at once took me into another room for questioning. I told them that my wife had severe Alzheimers. They contacted her doctor to confirm the diagnosis and made a report to Social Services. My wife could not remember ringing the police. I am considering removing all phones except the one in my bedroom.
  19. Oh Knickers

    Oh Knickers Registered User

    Nov 19, 2016

    Just remember the phrase 'what goes around comes around'. Make that your mantra.

    Somewhere along the line, you will see the outcome. Just watch from the sidelines.

    Go and do nice things for your self and detox from your mum. Just learn how to take care of yourself. It sounds as though you did more than your share.

    Take care.
  20. PhoebeAlexander

    PhoebeAlexander Registered User

    Aug 23, 2017
    Thanks for this. You actually made me laugh - first time in days. x

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