Elderly Forgetful Mom


By Joy Loverde

A reader recently wrote:

My mom is losing her cognitive ability and of course she doesn’t see it as well as I do. I know it is more efficient if I take over tracking her bills, medical information, prescriptions, etc. but it’s hard because she still wants control and sees me as intrusive. Any tips for tracking these things “with” my mom (meaning I can be the safety net when things get lost or forgotten).  Or ideas for getting a conversation started about this dilemma that doesn’t make her so suspicious and resentful.

Joy responded:

The love and concern you have for your mother comes through loud and clear in your letter. With a heightened awareness of Alzheimer’s disease, family members are well aware that forgetfulness can lead to greater complications in the elder care process, and being aware of your mother’s loss of cognitive abilities before things get worse is a good thing.

It’s also clear to me from your message, that your Mom’s forgetfulness may be somewhat frightening to you since you already know that one day you may be the one responsible for paying her bills on time, managing her medications and medical information, and other day-to-day caregiver tasks. Being the designated family caregiver might also be one of the reasons why you are accelerating the process of telling your mother that she needs help. Consequently, what you have on your hands today is the common family caregiver issue of “too much help, too soon” and is one of the reasons why your mom is so untrusting of you.

While it may be true that “taking over” is “more efficient,” I ask you to stop for a moment and put yourself in your mom’s shoes. As much as you say she is “suspicious” and “resentful” of you, she can probably say the very same words to describe you. No doubt, the tension and mistrust between the two of you when you are both present in the same room must be deeply felt, and given that the relationship between you and your mom is not on solid ground, you’re never going to get anywhere if this keeps up.

In my book, The Complete Eldercare Planner, I often describe how parent-child relationship issues often get in the way of accomplishing important elder care goals. That being said, here are a few important questions for you to ponder.

Are you willing to stop treating your mom as though she is a problem to be solved? Are you willing to stop reminding her that she needs help? Are you willing to put your timetable of her getting help on the back burner? Are you willing for the time being to spend time with her without bringing up her issue of forgetfulness? If the answer is “no” to any of these questions then you will forfeit the opportunity to create the trust that is missing in your relationship right now.

In your letter, you have asked for ideas on getting a conversation started about this dilemma and in response I say that enough has already been said about the situation at hand. Instead, next time you are with your mom, talk about something else. Go and do fun things together. Be a loving daughter and ask for your Mom’s help.  Make her feel useful and special in your life. Let her love you for a change, for she is undoubtedly as frightened about the future as you.