Dear Annie: My mom is in her 70s. She always has had trouble controlling what comes out of her mouth, but it seems to be getting worse.
Mom often insults others by making offensive comments or asking rude questions. When they attempt to respond, she laughs in their face. I have heard Dad rebuke her on occasion for this behavior, but it doesn’t seem to make any difference. She goes on to offend or tease the next person.
Mom monopolizes every conversation. She answers every question, even those not directed at her. She chatters nonstop and will not allow for any silence in a conversation. Simply being around her is exhausting.
I worry that Mom is severely limiting her options in terms of who would be willing to care for her in the future. She is so abrasive that no one wants to be around her. She doesn’t seem to realize that the more words she carelessly speaks the greater the likelihood that something regrettable will come out. Is there anything I can do or say to her that might make a difference? — Can’t Think Before Speaking
Dear Can’t: Has your mother had a complete checkup lately? Sometimes these problems are the result of small strokes or other physical or neurological problems. On occasion, troublesome behavior that has been annoying but tolerable becomes less filtered and less controllable over time, especially if there is underlying depression or anxiety. Suggest your mother see her doctor, and offer to go with her so you can discuss this directly. You also can leave a message at the doctor’s office with your concerns.
Dear Annie: This is for the many caring children who are forced by circumstances to place their elderly parents in a nursing home to be cared for by others. When visiting, these children are so heartbroken to hear the parent say over and over, “I want to go home.” Please tell them this “home” is most likely the safe, warm feeling of their childhood, or the place where they were in control of their lives.
My husband and I were fortunate enough to be able to care for his mother in a nice apartment annexed to our main living area. It had sliding doors to the deck and overlooked a quiet tranquil yard. We took our meals with her, and she had plenty of interaction with our family and as much personal care as possible. Yet, the more senility crept in the more she wanted to “go home.”
That feeling of “home” was the one thing we were not able to give her, no matter how hard we tried. — No Regrets in Watertown, Conn.
Dear No Regrets: We suspect the need to “go home” reflects the fact that the place in which they are living, whether a care facility, a child’s home or any other residence, is foreign and frightening in its unfamiliarity. As dementia proceeds, what is considered familiar can go back a long way, and certainly those places include the warm feeling of childhood or a place where they were in control. What you cannot reproduce is the recognition of where they are and why.
It sounds as though you did everything possible for your mother-in-law. We’re glad you have no regrets. No one should feel guilty for doing the best they can.
Dear Annie: I read the letter from “Concerned Friend” with interest. I started biting my nails in the first grade and never could stop despite wanting to. Fifty years later, I was given medication for depression that also contained an anti-anxiety medication. To my amazement, the nail biting stopped, and I’ve had beautiful nails ever since. — Prescott, Ariz.
Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to email@example.com, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 Third St., Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.