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Mom Complains She Doesn't Have Anyone to Talk To
Dave Cahail
Posted: Monday, May 13, 2019 2:04 PM
Joined: 6/24/2018
Posts: 27

Has anyone heard from their LO residing in a memory care facility that they don't have anyone to talk to?

My mother has now been in a memory care facility for nearly 1 1/2 years. This facility has residents with various levels of memory loss. 

My mother is still in the early stages of vascular dementia and while she does definitely have short term memory loss, repeats questions and is unable to make decisions, she can be engaging at times. She likes people and was making phone calls to people but we are noticing she isn't contacting people including ourselves. She just complains that no one is visiting or calling her (I visit about once a week, my sister about every other week and my brother maybe 2-3 times per year as he lives out of state). I have made several Facebook posts and have emailed family and friends with her address and phone number but I can't force them to contact her. We didn't set up voice mail for her as she hasn't been able to work that for years even when she was in her home. She has been in contact with a couple people near her previous home (Friday Harbor, Washington on an island in the San Juan Islands) but even now she is relying on them to call her - that is only happening about once every 3-4 weeks. She unfortunately has the personality to driveaway people if she doesn't like the message or if they aren't doing what she wants them to do for her. And unfortunately, this has impacted her relationships with family, friends and neighbors. 

For about the past month, she has been complaining that she doesn't have anyone at the memory care facility with which she can carry on a decent conversation. Some of the residents can be pretty lucid at times and she does engage with them. I have also hired companion care for her to take her out for drives and errands but now Mom says that person is driving her nuts (ironic I know). The MC staff / volunteers and other resident's family members are good about engaging her but it still doesn't seem enough for her. 

This past weekend, my sister, husband and I noticed that she was very moody at lunch and continued to try to do things that she thinks shows us her independence but to us it shows her poor judgement. It was also obvious to us that she knows something is happening both physically and mentally to her but she can't comprehend or understand it. She still says she is fine and can do everything - yeah right. 

She has had some senior counseling in the past to try to help her understand what is happening to her but I am not sure this will really help her let alone provide someone else for her to talk with. 

What have others done in situations like this? I am trying to help her with her quality of life and am in touch with the MC facility staff on this as well. But I also realize I can only do so much. My siblings and I are getting frustrated with her and don't really want to be around her very often as a result of her constant complaining so I am just trying to understand if there is anything we can do to help her while she still have the capability to converse with people. 

Any suggestions are appreciated. 

Posted: Monday, May 13, 2019 2:43 PM
Joined: 7/12/2017
Posts: 1288

My mom doesn't have anyone to talk to either, its mostly that all she can do is respond to questions and simple ones at that.  Sadly its not like they are talking pop culture, the news, movies, grandkids.  When I am out with my mom its me just talking at her oh look at that mural, or the dog is 12 this month, or I found a great new dry cleaner, and all I get back is smiles, nods, that's great, where?

Not sure your mom's stage but this will pass as everything seems to.  PS she may be talking with people but doesn't remember

All you can do (and it is annoying I get it), is say, well, we are here what do you want to talk about, deflect, and what do you want the staff to do, they can't for people to chat with each other. 

We can all be sitting around at dinner laughing smiling and my mom doesn't chime it, doesn't ask anything, doesn't share...we chat with her but it is all one sided

Posted: Monday, May 13, 2019 3:00 PM
Joined: 10/9/2014
Posts: 641

I'll just share what I have observed and read about since my LO was diagnosed. She's in MC now and has been in AL for about five years.  

It sounds like you have done quite a bit to ensure that your LO is getting sufficient attention, stimulation, personal engagement, etc.  From what I have observed, most staff do engage verbally with all residents who are capable in a MC. Plus, you have hired a professional visitor to engage with her.  Since, your LO doesn't like her, you might give it more time or try a new person.

  It may be that your LO struggles with these interactions and perhaps misreports what is happening. Her memory is obviously very affected.   That's why I would seek independent confirmation of what she is reporting.  I would suspect that she may not be able to correctly relay information to you.  And, even if someone that she loved was there talking with her  24/7, she may take fault with it, deny that it happened or find some other issue.  I think that sadly, dementia may cause a person to not be satisfied with one or more matters and that no amount of trying will appease them. 

Also, if your mother's MC has an AL where there are events where she could go on a daily or weekly basis, would they be able to include her?  I will warn you that even though your mother may believe that her conversation is normal, it could be that it isn't and people who don't have dementia may not be willing or able to engage with her.  For example, there is a talkative lady, who is quite mobile in my LO's MC unit.  She walks around and talks a lot to staff, other residents and visitors, but, what she says does not really make sense.  The words are often mixed up, not coherent, etc.  So, conversations are not really possible.  Have you watched to see if that is what is going on? Does the paid visitor understand HOW to communicate with her?  

I learned that it is special language and it may vary by person, but, with my LO, if she said, "It was a very strong, have not seen, was there though."  My response would be, Oh, I see. Tell me more.  I tried to express interest without knowing what she meant. I smiled a lot and tried to let her say whatever she wanted.  But, for many people, they don't know what to say back and they can't do it. 

Maybe, some others will have more ideas that will help you with this.  I know it's difficult. 

Dave Cahail
Posted: Monday, May 13, 2019 7:24 PM
Joined: 6/24/2018
Posts: 27

Thanks for the feedback. 

Fortunately Mom can communicate pretty normally but we do watch to see how engaged she is. Sometimes we notice that she isn't really listening to us or perhaps doesn't want to. She is easily distracted and this causes her to ask the same questions or say she hadn't seen this before but she had 5 minutes earlier. 

The staff at the MC facility is good about keeping her engaged with them and other residents. We do hear that Mom does engage with other residents frequently and seems pretty happy. They have told me numerous times that it would be great if I was a fly on the wall and observe interact with others. Mom is 82 and often sits with a 100 year old woman to chat and go through magazines together. Mom also jokes that the staff has given her a job there to help out. We like that as it keeps her busy and interacting with others.

The companion care woman loves working with my Mom but I think she may not focus enough on general conversations. I am going to work with the companion care woman on this so maybe Mom won't think the care woman is driving her nuts. 

Mom does read the newspaper and magazine so has some pretty idea what is going on in the world and in her home town. She also has a radio she likes listening too. But she won't touch the TV - I think the remote intimidates her and I think the noise and commotion on TV causes her anxiety and confusion (affects her Sundowners).


Posted: Monday, May 13, 2019 8:20 PM
Joined: 7/12/2017
Posts: 1288

Okay so you think mom knows what is happening because she reads the paper?  my mom reads the paper every day as well but still doesn't remember what she read, rentention and being able to read are two very different things.

I think your expectations of your mom's memory isn't what is the reality or you mom shouldn't be where she is

Eric L
Posted: Tuesday, May 14, 2019 10:58 AM
Joined: 12/5/2014
Posts: 1050

A couple of years ago, my MIL would complain daily that she was bored and was a prisoner in her own house. At the time, she had physical therapy a couple times a week, she went with me to get the kids from school, we dragged her to all of the kids sporting and school events, her sister visited her every Saturday and they went for an outing each week (usually lunch and walk in the park), and we went to church on Sundays followed by breakfast at restaurant. She also played Bunco once a month with my side of the family and when we visited my parents for Sunday dinners, she came with us.

All things considered, she had a really busy schedule and was out of the house almost daily. Her neurologist and later her geriatric care manager commented (to us, not her) that she had a pretty active life, all things considered. What we figured out by a bit of deduction was that she was upset when we left her alone for long stretches of time. She was also a little bit upset that she couldn't drive anymore. It took us a while to actually figure out what her "real" complaint was. You might need to do a little snooping and drop by the memory care facility and just observe her from a distance without her seeing you. It will probably help you moving forward. You can see if she is interacting or not and take the appropriate steps to help her.

We probably learned this too late in our house, but I would say if is complaining alot, just validate her concerns. Sympathize with her and tell her you are working on fixing it and then see if you can't distract her with a walk or something like that.
Posted: Thursday, May 23, 2019 4:02 PM
Joined: 5/23/2019
Posts: 99

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