As my regular readers know, life with my mom has always been far from pleasant.
And now….Dementia Case #2.
I had suspected it, even before I left Jerusalem in 2011 (January 11, 2011, to be exact) to come to the US and help with my dad. Fears out of proportion, throwing screaming fits in public and not just in private, arguing with the carpenter about whether or not she had paid his bill (she hadn’t). He even came to me and asked if I had noticed anything wrong with my mom. He’s been working for us for years, and never saw anything like that.
Interesting how dementia brings out a person’s true character traits. Take my dad: soft, sweet, gentle, kind. Very occasionally grumpy or moody, but who isn’t?
My mom, on the other hand, is selfish, angry, suspicious, and nasty. And she lies. In fact, she likes to say, “a little white lie won’t hurt.”
The hell it won’t!
But one or two of you might know her personally, and you will say, “Oh, but she is just the sweetest person! How can you say such things about her? It must be YOUR misperception.”
The hell I say!
That’s the way people with Narcissistic Personality Disorder operate. They bask in public accolades, while conducting a Reign of Terror at home. But the abused ones are in a pickle, because if we try to get help from anyone who knows her, they will shout, “How can you say such a thing about your lovely mother, who is such a gift to the community, such an angel, has dried so many tears and started so many non-profit charities!?”
So in general we just shut up and take it, and marry someone equally dysfunctional.
That’s the way I grew up. And my dad was terrified of her and hopelessly in love with her, both at once.
Think “Mommie Dearest.”
No, she never dragged me out of bed to scrub the bathroom floor, but plenty went on, and I won’t elaborate here, because today I got the confirmation of a growing suspicion: she’s got dementia.
I’ve been too caught up in the emotional tempest surrounding Dad’s plight to really pay attention to her acting-out. I’ve been mightily pissed off because she threw a bunch of pottery items that my dad made (he’s a potter) behind the refrigerator. Right. And she somehow disposed of a beautiful porcelain vase that Dad and I collaborated on back in my painter days. It just “disappeared.” And like the little cups that ended up smashed behind the refrigerator, every inquiry about my vase gets an “I don’t know” with averted eyes and a little smirk.
She’s been on a gaslighting campaign regarding my memory, accusing me of forgetting things that she never told me, such as important appointments. Gaslighting, if you don’t already know, is when someone tries to make you think you’re crazy by setting up situations that don’t really exist. It’s a power trip, or it can be used as a coverup for someone’s own mistakes.
Last year I went to the trouble of having a complete cognitive workup–lasted two days and cost me $1200. And it turns out that I do have one very specific hole in my memory: reconstruction of long and detailed stories–which is distressing for someone whose job used to be collecting and reconstructing long and detailed stories, as a physician. But my long, medium, and short-term memories are perfect. So it ain’t me, babe, as someone once wrote in a song.
So this whole business of Dad being in a nursing home has brought out some interesting (heh) and instructive situations. On a couple of occasions she has asked me to bring something from the house, and when I bought it, she would scold me for bringing the wrong thing, citing my “terrible memory.”
Today, in fact, she called me from the nursing home, asking me to bring Dad’s slippers and a couple of packages of pull-up diapers. When I reached their house, though, she was already home, having lunch. The slippers were sitting on a chair. I picked them up to put them in my backpack and she screamed with her mouth full, “No, not that! Those are his Pads.” “Pads” are the brand name of the slippers.
“Didn’t you put these out for me to take? Did you mean a different pair of slippers?”
“You don’t know what you’re doing. Go take your shower.” The building I live in does not have a bathroom, in the usual sense of the word, and I was in fact planning to take a shower at their house before going to the nursing home. So, cursing under my breath, I did.
I hoped that by the time I finished my toilette that she would be in a more reasonable mood, but no luck. As soon as I landed downstairs she began screaming at me about my terrible memory, and shoved a bag of stuff in my general direction. It contained a couple of packets of diapers, with the already mentioned slippers on top.
“Wait a minute, Mom,” I said, trying to control my temper and not doing a very good job. “These are the same slippers that you said were the wrong ones. These are the ones that were sitting on the chair, and I picked them up, and you said they weren’t the right ones!”
“No I didn’t! I told you to get the Depends (diapers). You don’t know what you’re talking about. You can’t remember anything!”
At that point I put my coat on, gathered up my stuff and the package, and sailed out the door cursing, not so much under my breath, and not caring whether she heard or not.
When the blood stopped pounding in my ears, I realized that my suspicion is dead-on: she’s sliding into dementia.
Now what am I gonna do?
My dad is safe where he is, but she is a loose cannon and could do anything. She’s already made some disastrous financial decisions that I am powerless to reverse, because at this point it would be very difficult to prove her incompetent. That may change very quickly. But what am I going to do in the meantime, having to interact with her on a daily basis because of my dad, having her living in a place that is now completely inappropriate for her, and having her seething anger aimed in my direction? Granted, part of the anger is due to the grieving process for my dad. But that does not excuse her leveling it at me.
I can’t go to the Social Services people, because they all know her in her “public face” and none of them would believe me if I tried to tell them what’s going on. And of course if they approached her about it, she would tell them all about her mentally ill daughter with the “terrible memory.” She even has a story about how my memory got so terrible: it was the Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation treatments that have saved my life over the years. That’s her explanation for why I can’t remember anything. And of course the Social Services people would shake their heads and cluck their tongues, because they KNOW her and they know she’s a competent person, a kind, sweet angel.
So what am I going to do?