And Here Goes The Other One…What Will I Do?

As my regular readers know, life with my mom has always been far from pleasant.

And now….Dementia Case #2.

I had suspected it, even before I left Jerusalem in 2011 (January 11, 2011, to be exact) to come to the US and help with my dad.  Fears out of proportion, throwing screaming fits in public and not just in private, arguing with the carpenter about whether or not she had paid his bill (she hadn’t).  He even came to me and asked if I had noticed anything wrong with my mom.  He’s been working for us for years, and never saw anything like that.

Interesting how dementia brings out a person’s true character traits.  Take my dad: soft, sweet, gentle, kind.  Very occasionally grumpy or moody, but who isn’t?

My mom, on the other hand, is selfish, angry, suspicious, and nasty.  And she lies.  In fact, she likes to say, “a little white lie won’t hurt.”

The hell it won’t!

But one or two of you might know her personally, and you will say, “Oh, but she is just the sweetest person!  How can you say such things about her?  It must be YOUR misperception.”

The hell I say!

That’s the way people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder operate.  They bask in public accolades, while conducting a Reign of Terror at home.  But the abused ones are in a pickle, because if we try to get help from anyone who knows her, they will shout, “How can you say such a thing about your lovely mother, who is such a gift to the community, such an angel, has dried so many tears and started so many non-profit charities!?”

So in general we just shut up and take it, and marry someone equally dysfunctional.

That’s the way I grew up.  And my dad was terrified of her and hopelessly in love with her, both at once.

Think “Mommie Dearest.”

No, she never dragged me out of bed to scrub the bathroom floor, but plenty went on, and I won’t elaborate here, because today I got the confirmation of a growing suspicion: she’s got dementia.

I’ve been too caught up in the emotional tempest surrounding Dad’s plight to really pay attention to her acting-out.  I’ve been mightily pissed off because she threw a bunch of pottery items that my dad made (he’s a potter) behind the refrigerator.  Right.  And she somehow disposed of a beautiful porcelain vase that Dad and I collaborated on back in my painter days.  It just “disappeared.”  And like the little cups that ended up smashed behind the refrigerator, every inquiry about my vase gets an “I don’t know” with averted eyes and a little smirk.

She’s been on a gaslighting campaign regarding my memory, accusing me of forgetting things that she never told me, such as important appointments.  Gaslighting, if you don’t already know, is when someone tries to make you think you’re crazy by setting up situations that don’t really exist.  It’s a power trip, or it can be used as a coverup for someone’s own mistakes.

Last year I went to the trouble of having a complete cognitive workup–lasted two days and cost me $1200.  And it turns out that I do have one very specific hole in my memory: reconstruction of long and detailed stories–which is distressing for someone whose job used to be collecting and reconstructing long and detailed stories, as a physician.  But my long, medium, and short-term memories are perfect.  So it ain’t me, babe, as someone once wrote in a song.

So this whole business of Dad being in a nursing home has brought out some interesting (heh) and instructive situations.  On a couple of occasions she has asked me to bring something from the house, and when I bought it, she would scold me for bringing the wrong thing, citing my “terrible memory.”

Today, in fact, she called me from the nursing home, asking me to bring Dad’s slippers and a couple of packages of pull-up diapers.  When I reached their house, though, she was already home, having lunch.  The slippers were sitting on a chair.  I picked them up to put them in my backpack and she screamed with her mouth full, “No, not that!  Those are his Pads.”  “Pads” are the brand name of the slippers.

“Didn’t you put these out for me to take?  Did you mean a different pair of slippers?”

“You don’t know what you’re doing.  Go take your shower.”  The building I live in does not have a bathroom, in the usual sense of the word, and I was in fact planning to take a shower at their house before going to the nursing home.  So, cursing under my breath, I did.

I hoped that by the time I finished my toilette that she would be in a more reasonable mood, but no luck.  As soon as I landed downstairs she began screaming at me about my terrible memory, and shoved a bag of stuff in my general direction.  It contained a couple of packets of diapers, with the already mentioned slippers on top.

“Wait a minute, Mom,” I said, trying to control my temper and not doing a very good job.  “These are the same slippers that you said were the wrong ones.  These are the ones that were sitting on the chair, and I picked them up, and you said they weren’t the right ones!”

“No I didn’t!  I told you to get the Depends (diapers).  You don’t know what you’re talking about.  You can’t remember anything!”

At that point I put my coat on, gathered up my stuff and the package, and sailed out the door cursing, not so much under my breath, and not caring whether she heard or not.

When the blood stopped pounding in my ears, I realized that my suspicion is dead-on: she’s sliding into dementia.

Now what am I gonna do?

My dad is safe where he is, but she is a loose cannon and could do anything.  She’s already made some disastrous financial decisions that I am powerless to reverse, because at this point it would be very difficult to prove her incompetent.  That may change very quickly.  But what am I going to do in the meantime, having to interact with her on a daily basis because of my dad, having her living in a place that is now completely inappropriate for her, and having her seething anger aimed in my direction?    Granted, part of the anger is due to the grieving process for my dad.  But that does not excuse her leveling it at me.

I can’t go to the Social Services people, because they all know her in her “public face” and none of them would believe me if I tried to tell them what’s going on.  And of course if they approached her about it, she would tell them all about her mentally ill daughter with the “terrible memory.”  She even has a story about how my memory got so terrible: it was the Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation treatments that have saved my life over the years.  That’s her explanation for why I can’t remember anything.  And of course the Social Services people would shake their heads and cluck their tongues, because they KNOW her and they know she’s a competent person, a kind, sweet angel.

So what am I going to do?

Next Post
Leave a comment


  1. First of all, I’m so terribly sorry this is happening b/c you’ve already got so much on your plate!!

    Secondly, I want to tell you I can relate b/c she sounds like several family members — some aspects for one person, some aspects for another.

    Thirdly, I’d like to suggest you get witnesses/proof from workers where your dad is. Surely, eventually, hopefully they’ll notice what your mom’s doing. If they or you can then get a doctor in on it, maybe she/he could do something.

    Finally, I most certainly understand about the “she’s crazy” card being played. If you’ve read any of my past posts about my neighbor(s), what they’re doing to me and why I cannot turn to anyone with authority, other than God, to make it stop. If I called the cops, they’d be told I was crazy, on meds, etc. My manager doesn’t give a damn and besides she’s gossip buddies with the main instigator.

    Prayers, hugs, love, thoughts and anything else I can think of will be coming your way from me. It’s not a solution, but these, along with my suggestion, are all I have for you.

  2. My suggestion is to play like she doesn’t exist. If she is a true narcissist she has played like you don’t exist all of your life – hand it back to her on a silver platter and do it with a smile.

  3. well i guess youre just gonna hang in there for the duration. sounds like in less than a year, that she will need to be in an assisted living situation, or maybe have round the clock aids. and after another year or so shell probably be ready for a nursing home. and as for her private behaviour–you will just have to be the adult to her child, and do what needs done regardless of her behavior.she may not like it now, she may never….but, you will always know that you did right by her, that you made sure what she needed really got done, and that she was always well cared for. even if she really didn’t think she did.

    when my father was still alive, his father became demented. even though the two of them had never interacted his entire life, after his father dropped him off at an aunt’s home to live there, my father still took care of his father, even tho they had never liked each other, never bonded. he made sure he was placed in the nicest nursing home in the area. he made sure our cousin, the tailor, made him new shirts every 6 months and had them sent to to him. my father paid for any extras that were offered or other things that he needed. all this, for a man he hated. but no matter what, he did the right thing and made sure the last days of his life were comfortable.

    i think that being able to be that nice of a person is amazing. its easier to do it for ones kids, or for parents you were always close to. but to be able to be so kind to someone who has never been kind to you, that is amazing. i am sure will do right by your mom, even tho you didnt have an easy relationship her. i am sure you are a kind person, i know you are amazing. hang in there ❤

    • Wow, Kat, your father’s story is comforting. I’m coming to terms with the fact that the best weapon against hate is acts of kindness. I don’t have to love her, but I will do right by her because that’s the right thing to do. I will never tell the story of what she did to HER mother, unless it’s in a novel, which just might happen.

  4. It’s so very difficult when someone is one way to their family and another to the rest of the world. I get that. It’s one thing that I really struggle with. It’s difficult to hold onto your truth. I’m so sorry you’re having to deal with both parents at the one time. One at a time is more than enough. ❤

    • Thanks, Cate. If one is aware of it, it’s very interesting to see how we behave at home vs out in the world. I try really hard to make them the same, but this challenge its really putting me to the test, and I find myself wanting.

  5. I understand parental narcissism. My mom lies as well. For years we have argued – some because she doesn’t want to understand my situation and some because she just cares about herself. My aunt told me the other day she was still complaining about how much she had to help me financially in the 80s! I lived in an apt they owned and they charged me 50% of my SSDI. I was grateful and still am but it’s hard to hear that she is complaining about helping me still. Aren’t parents supposed to care and help when their own kid is in a mental health crisis? There’s more but will stop.

    So here is my new strategy. I call her every day. We talk all the time. Turns out I think she was mad a lot at all three of us kids because she didn’t hear from us enough. Course, when we did call, she would complain that we don’t call which would make us call less. So, now, I call her every day. usually from the car so that when I get where I am going I can say “I am at my destination.”

    I understand this is not your solution more than likely but maybe a little bit. She’s probably scared – and I know I am giving her some credit here for normal human emotions. I do think at some point, just as our diagnoses can give us a “pass” on stuff, their “getting old” dx’s can give them a pass as well. She’s never been nice. she’s not going to be nice now. We can’t change them (my mom and dad are 82) we can only change how we allow them to affect us now. easier said than done, i totally am there, believe me.

    so, I am offering support and camaraderie in this issue. Sorry things are so bad with your dad and you might be left alone with her to try to help. She won’t probably accept your help but I think we sometimes just have to insist. As for financial issues, if you can prove she has made some disastrous decisions that will affect her ability to be self-sufficient, it seems speaking to her doctor about testing might be an answer. Once it’s documented, you can get a court ordered payee. With the amount of people taking advantage of older folks, courts I think are pretty good about turning over the reigns. Even if to a soc sec appointed stranger.

    I believe getting a firm diagnosis either thru scans or psych testing is the first place to start. She doesn’t have to know what the tests are for, just that the doctor has ordered them.

    anger is so hard when it’s so triggering for us. I have bipolar disorder and PTSD as well. The world at large loves my mom as well. and well, I love her too. just don’t like her all the time! Sad to say she is only in my life because she is my mom. She would not be someone I would choose as a friend. but, she is my mom. I’m doing my best in her last years so I don’t get left with guilt to deal with later.

    • Ouch, what a story! Taking your disability for rent! I am speechless. I very much hope times are better for you now xoxox

      • things are much better thanks. The 80’s and early 90’s were tough time. Today, I am well under controll and I am very involved with Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance locally, in fact have been VP of that org and still the media coordinator. I hope folks look for a DBSA chapter in their own community for peer support. they are free to attend with love offering usually. I find great support and dear friendships there.

  6. by the way, forgot to say about my mom and aunt’s convo…My mom told my aunt I was lazy. I said to my aunt – I was very mentally ill. My aunt said “to your mom, it’s the same thing.” imagine.

  7. Oh, Laura. I wish I could give you a hug.

    I have some personal knowledge about abuse from “pillar of the community” parents and it’s very tricky. GracieLynn’s advice – to play like she doesn’t exist, to whatever extent you can – might offer you some respite. If I know my narcissists, she’ll start escalating her behavior, which will help in getting witnesses to some of her behavior. The people at the facility where your father is living have surely seen her darker side by now. Some of them are also trained to recognize dementia, so they may be your best allies.

    Put your energy into your father, as much as you can. Allow her to walk her path. I assume you know that the tradition interprets “honor your father and mother” pretty narrowly. You can’t let them be homeless and you can’t let them starve. But you CAN ignore the narcissist.

    Keep writing, and whenever things are hard, remember that many friends are thinking affectionately of you. You are not alone.

    • Thanks Reb Rab Mishe mishe mishe mishe mi she’nichnas Adar LOL I have to say the first thing I did upon getting to Jerusalem, when I was studying at She’arim in 2006, was to go down to Geula where there is a book store–Manny’s I think–that is widely revered in the Haredi world. I had already been told by several rabbeim that kibud av v’em is fulfilled if you make sure their physical needs are taken care of–like you said, a roof over their head, food, and if you want to be magnanimous, clothing. I could not believe that, so I asked the bookstore guy if they had a sefer on Kibud Avot, and of course they did, so I sat there with my elementary Hebrew and there it was in print, just what the rabbeim said. More than that, it listed mitzvot that trump kibud av, and one of them was living in the Land of Israel. In fact, there are only two reasons that permit leaving Eretz Yisrael, and they are: inability to make parnassa, and a shidduch in the Galut. NOT parents. My rabbis and teachers in Israel were mostly opposed to my returning to the States for the duration, but the ones I am closest to are sad but at least understand that I could not rest for a moment, let alone learn, if I felt my parents need me, even if I really don’t want to be here. And like our friend said above, when they pass at least I will know I did my best. Happy Purim Katan!

  8. teddymear

     /  February 13, 2014

    Good morning Laura 🙂 I am sending you all the positive energy, support and encouragement I can muster up right now because you have an overflowing plate. This is a tough time of life you are in when the roles reverse and you become the caregiver of your parents. I’ve been down that road with both parents who are now gone. What you are going through with your Mom, I suggest you give a call to your local Visiting Nurse Agency and explain her situation. Just let them know you would like any information they can give you. They may come out and do an evaluation on Mom. All they have to do is call her PCP and get an order. This is where I would start this process because she sounds like she shouldn’t be handling her own finances, medications, etc. When I was going through all of this with my Mom, I started by calling the VNA and getting as much info as I could, Mom was living with me at the time and I needed help with her. They are a wealth of info. When you get overwhelmed or stressed just take a breath and think… “a day at a time”…sometimes, “an hour at a time”. I deal with my pain that way too. Laura, I’m so sorry your Mom and you haven’t had a very good relationship over the years. Your Mom does love you, she just doesn’t know how to show it. Gentle Hugs~Mear 🙂

    • An hour at a time….a minute at a time…wow, where do you live that you have a VNA? We don’t here. Mom would freak right on out if I invited anybody to evaluate her. She’s very sharp, and very paranoid. Her dementia is as if her sharpness is getting mixed up and non-sequential. I think it’s going to have to go kind of the way my dad’s story went, i.e., some kind of crisis that will by its nature involve other people. Until then, it’s going to be rough going. Wishing you relief from your pain ❤

  9. D'Alta

     /  February 13, 2014

    I am so sorry, Laura. No doctor would believe us as my dad moved in and out of dementia. He would be crazy as a bedbug at home, scaring the day lights out of those closest to him. Then on visits to his PA–the only medical person with whom he had not burned bridges, my dad was bright, aware and very much “with it”. As soon as we returned home, he had us chasing day laborers from St. Lawrence County out of the night pasture… Yeah, nobody was there, but we still had to go talk to them and find out when they would be done. Until his requests grew more and more outlandish–chasing non-existent workers, we just thought of him as the mean, demanding person he had always been…

    We were very lucky. My dad’s heart was bad enough that the cardiologist we finally saw–after much pleading–could not understand how my dad could still be alive. Very little blood flow to his heart due to multiple inoperable blockages. Hospice was called in. The intake nurse met with my dad and the rest of us, asked some pointed questions, determined what we needed to do to keep my mom safe, and eased my dad from one life into the next.

    What can you do? As impossible as it may seem, the best thing would be to find someone who can be objective–and I know it will be a challenge because of how respected and loved your mom is in the community. As I was once told by a counselor, denial is the strongest drug that exists. Approach them out of love and concern for your mom’s well-being. Bite your tongue and acknowledge the good that she has always done for others. Tell them that what she is doing is so out of character that you are increasingly alarmed. Be specific–cite the situation with the carpenter. Is there a younger social worker or chaplain connected to the nursing home, one who has experience helping the families of the residents of the nursing home? This wouldn’t be the first time they’ve had to deal with dementia and aging concerns with a resident and family member at home.

    This would be my approach, Laura, and to try to do it in the context of love for both of your parents…hard as that may be. I wish you luck and hold you all in my heart.


  10. Laura, I have seen a boyfriend gaslighting his girlfriend and I know she became neurotic for sometime, loosing her confidence. She is much better now by Lord’s grace but there are times when she still fights her paranoia.

    Having a parent like this, can be more traumatic. Still you are educated, financially independent woman with more strength than many others. I hope you find more strength by each passing day. TC.


What's your take?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: