What is Mom trying to tell me?

idixieroseFebruary 6, 2007

My mom is 87 and she only seems interested in talking about herself -- usually providing me with more details than I ever wanted to know about the topic of conversation, whether it's what she had for dinner or reminiscing about something that happened to her 40 years ago. She tells me all about people I don't know, including their "sisters, cousins and aunts." These "blow-by-blow" accounts of which pair of socks she wore with the pair of pants she made in 1976 and is still wearing puzzle me.

I enjoy listening to her talk and I ask her questions, but in contrast, she rarely, if ever, asks me how my day went or what my plans are for the weekend. She doesn't seem much interested in discussing local or national news and politics. What can I do to keep our conversations from being so one-sided?

What is this all about? I listen politely and whith interest, thinking that there must be something for me to learn. But often, I can't quite figure it out.

A Little Background Info: Mom lives alone,but she has a fairly active social network: she talks with two close friends every day. She goes to church twice on Sunday and Wednesday night, and also attends a couple of club meetings each week. She quilts and does flower painting. She drives in the small town where she lives, but not out of town. She's a retired school teacher. Her husband died 5 years ago.

I call her 2-3 times a week and visit 3-4 times a month. Both of my sisters also talk with her on the phone each week. It's not exactly like my mom is severely isolated. She still drives around the small town where she lives.

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Just relax and let the conversations be one sided. There is little point in trying to change what is now part of her present personality. She probably doesn't realize how one sided the conversations are. If you try to change things, she won't understand and she would probably get upset about it. If it's any comfort, this is not an uncommon thing with the elderly. They are involved in the past, not the present. And they like to talk.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2007 at 6:10PM
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Agnes, thanks for your feedback. It's about what I'd figured on my own. She and I get along well, but I couldn't help but wonder if there was somthing I was oblivious to.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2007 at 7:02PM
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Maybe it's simply a part of the normal aging process, or... I noticed this with my Mother when she was in her mid 80's and she's now two months shy of 91 and has been in a nursing home for three months now. She was always cheery, selfless, extremely nice, and interested in the world around her; lots of golf, gardening oil painting, and social interactions. Gradually, she started turning inward; conversations were becomming very uncharacteristically "I I I" or "me me me". Quite self absorbed and seeming to lose any kind of emotional response to anything. And like your Mom, mine seemed to get stuck somewhere back in the 40's. We were starting to have the same conversation several times a day, day in day out. My brother and I sort of knew we were seeing the early stages of Alzheimer's.

By way of a little history: I was able to retire at age 55 in 2000, sold my house back East and moved here in the summer of 2001 to take care of my aging parents. Dad passed away the December of 2001 leaving me as companion (caregiver) for Mom.

We took Mom for a physical just to make sure she hadn't suffered a mini stroke, a urinary tract infection, or a brain tumor - just ruling out anything organic with as few invasive type tests as we could. Her doctor recommeded she be evaluated at a Memory Clinic. We took her and she was given a battery of tests over a couple of days, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's type dementia and was put on one of the drugs.
Despite a gradual, yet noticeable decline, she still functioned on some levels, but her short-term meory was gone (every moment was brand new) and her long term memory was getting pretty jumbled. She finally reached the stage where I could no longer provide all the care she needed.

Alzheimer's is a terrible disease - watching someone you love lose themselves little by little is devastating. It is truly "the long goodby".

I sincerely hope this is not the case with your Mom.


    Bookmark   February 6, 2007 at 8:26PM
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I think is sounds pretty normal. My mom, 86, lives with me and she does ask about my day. She, however, does not have a lot of connection with the things I do. My mom, who is pretty sharp, listens to the news, knows about world affairs, etc, does something similar when she needs to make conversation.

My mom was almost 36 when I was born. Her first child was born when she was 32. She had a pretty neat life before us. She goes on talking about the Broadway plays, shoes, restaurants, etc. she used to go to. Every once in a while, I can't help but ask her if she has any happy memories from when we were kids. I know she does. But I'm sure the LBK's ones make her feel younger. It is OK.

I'm glad you get along well. That is huge. Adele

    Bookmark   February 7, 2007 at 5:38PM
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Many time us older folks go back to the time we are the happiest. i find myself at 74 talking alot about the good times i had with my grandparents on the ranch. I have blanked out many things, and for awhile it really bothered me, but now I think there was nothing special in my life with my parents. Spending the summers with GP's was good and learning experiences.
What I do miss and wish I did was talk to my Dad and Mom, when she choose to, is about the past and relatives, and kept track of who when where so I could go a better family history. Especially my Dad. I loved his relatives and most of my Mom's but she had problems, so would not visit or discuss. Now I wish after I got married insisted she tell me her life and relatives. But If we could only go back. Most of my uncles are gone also and my cousins are are scattered.
Write everything down and you will be happy later--scrapbooking, family history etc will be fun and easier.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2007 at 2:41PM
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mariend: I totally agree with you that our good memories are wonderful things. And it is sad when people who could fill in details of our families and their lives are no longer with us. I spent many a happy afternoon not too long ago with an aging Aunt who could still identify my long gone relatives in the beautiful old photograph albums that had belonged to her Mother (my Grandmother) and her Grandmother (my great great Grndmother). I carefully wrote down names and any information my Aunt could provide. I'm so grateful she knew so much of the family history.

What is different about memories though, you know they are your memories and not what is occurring in your life today. My Mother can no longer tell the difference between yesterday and 50 years ago. It's all the same to her. I know I shouldn't be sad that her world has become so small because I know she's happy.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2007 at 6:06PM
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I've been a member of GW for a long time and just noticed this forum.
It sounds to me like your mom is doing ok. You might look into the medications she's on, if any. Some of them can cause a mental decline, like one did to my grandmother the last 20 years of her life. A lot of drugs deplete or interfere with nutrient uptake too, which can cause a lot of problems over time. 1 or 2 my mom is on block magnesium, which is a very important heart and muscle nutrient, among other things. There's a good book called "The Magnesium Miracle" that tells all that has been learned about its function in the body. It can be related to mental decline in some cases, maybe a lot for all I know. A lot of older people don't absorb nutrients as well and don't eat as much or maybe don't eat the right foods.
I've been going through some difficult times with my mom. She has been in the hospital twice this winter. The first time was a result of a medication, one I had tried to get her off ever since she started it, a beta blocker. She's a worrier and at one dr. visit she was voicing her concerns over heart attacks and stroke and he said he could put her on that drug if it would make her feel better, but she really didn't need it at the time. I could've shot him! That drug has some side effects that just gave her more problems. So she was on that for 5 or so years and she gradually declined with the problems it gave her. She was kept in the hospital overnight for observation and in the evening she told the nurse that it was the time she always took her beta blocker. The nurse looked at the monitor and saw that her heart rate was low and told my mom she didn't want to give it to her with her heart rate already so low and she wanted to talk to the doctor about it. So she didn't get it that night, but they did give it to her the next morning. I went with her to her follow up appt. with her doctor and brought up that issue and he said he had noticed that and had decided to take her off it. Now if I could just get her to quit worrying about everything, she'd improve more. I've been telling her that her worrying so much is part of the cause of her bp problem and she needs to just let it go, that if somethings going to happen, it will and worrying about won't change that. Last weeks hospital trip was due to her bp going up too high and the diagnoses was anxiety,so she seems to be trying harder to not worry. She talks to me about everybodies ailments, even people I don't know and she needs to focus on more positive things, but it's hard since most people she knows are getting up there in age and having a lot of problems.
Anyone else have that to deal with? My health is down because of drained adrenals and I can't take a lot of stress myself. Last weeks hospital run about did me in.
I hijacked this thread. Sorry!
I hope you're mom is ok. You're doing a great job with her!

    Bookmark   February 20, 2007 at 3:19PM
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Idixierose: Your mom sounds very delightful, almost like a character in a book. I hope all is well with her. I wouldn't mind having a neighbor like her.


    Bookmark   February 25, 2007 at 1:06PM
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Idixierose: My mother is 76 and lives completely alone in another state. She exhibits very similar behavior to your mother and I mistakenly have tried to point out that it is a one-sided conversation but she has not changed. Her choice to live alone is by choice and I have struggled with this over the past couple of years. She has told me that I am all she has but I have a wife and 8 month old son that I also need to share life with and I sometimes get quite upset when she complains about the fact that I don't visit enough and don't pay enough attention to her. It is difficult but I have learned to work with her one day at a time.

You are doing fine and this is just a normal side-effect of aging! : )

    Bookmark   May 9, 2007 at 5:54PM
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Many months since I posted as I lost both my folks last fall. I definitely could relate to your problem about your Mom. I attributed my mom's self centered new personality had been encouraged by me. Mom had her hip replaced at 80 with complications. I kept telling her it was time to stop worrying about everyone else & to pamper herself, that she deserved to be the focus for a change. I created a monster. For the last 4 yrs of her life it was all about her.But mom had always talked about people we'd never met- it was a family joke, especially Dad's reaction once she'd get started. Sometimes I felt like I was the daughter of Archie and Edith! As their caregiver for lengthy illnesses, I treasure my memories of them in this first year of grieving.I feel like they've been microchipped under my skin and look forward to scrapbooking even more pages for each of them this summer.

    Bookmark   May 10, 2007 at 7:52AM
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