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How Do I Stop My Daughter From Arguing With My Mom Who Has Alzheimer’s?

caregiver supportDear Maria,

My 27-year old daughter complains that my 84-year old mother with Alzheimer’s says mean and hurtful things to her on purpose. She gets so hurt and angry that she will start yelling at my mother.

When I try to get my daughter to realize it’s the Alzheimer’s making grandma act that way she says “No it’s not!” and expects me to “make grandma” stop treating her this way.

It always ends the same…everyone in tears, in separate rooms, not talking to each other the rest of the day, only to have something else trigger another “blow-up” the next day. (Finances right now are preventing my daughter and her family from moving.)

My daughter thinks I’m a bad mother because I don’t put grandma “in her place”. Is she right? OR how do I get my daughter to not take everything so personally.

I am in the middle of a very bad place, I would appreciate any advice you can give me.

Thanks, Diane (Riverside, CA)

(Diane has been a family caregiver to her mother for the past 8 years.)

Dear Diane,

The person I’m most concerned about in the scenario you’ve laid out is you. Despite your daughter’s attempts to convince you otherwise, it isn’t your responsible to keep the peace in your household.

Your daughter is a grown woman; money may be preventing her from living elsewhere, but it’s not an excuse to behave like a teenager. Trying to be referee is a no-win position for you and no doubt adds to stress with which you are already coping.

The way forward (although it might be a little rocky at first) is to not allow yourself to get sucked into the middle. The next time your daughter comes to you with a complaint about grandma I would say and do the following:

“It isn’t my responsibility to keep the peace between you and grandma.  You are a grown woman and I have tried numerous times to explain what’s going on.  If you don’t want to listen to me, that’s your decision, but I won’t allow you to upset me in the process any longer.”

I’d recommend that you say this in the calmest voice you can and then,  I suggest that you stop whatever it is that you’re doing and leave the house for a minimum of 20 minutes…

Go for a walk around the block, take a short drive, it doesn’t matter. The important thing is to break the cycle of arguing with your daughter and allow her time to practice some new coping skills of her own.

When your daughter is able to talk with you again without the blaming and the anger, urge her to contact the Alzheimer’s Association.  Your local chapter will have classes that explain the illness in greater detail and I think she’d benefit from hearing this information from a professional. She can also call the 24/7 hotline for immediate feedback and advice.  This isn’t a bad number to have by the phone (1800-272-3900).

Lastly, and this is really important…YOU ARE NOT A BAD MOTHER. YOU ARE ALSO NOT A BAD DAUGHTER.  In fact it sounds to me like quite the opposite based on what you’ve shared.

If you’re not already connected to a support group, now would be a good time to join one.  You can find those resources through the Alzheimer’s Association too.

All the best,

Maria

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