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Family problems

bradnoe
Posts: 1
Joined: Jan 2010

My brother is in the final stages of prostate cancer. He has lived with my sister for a number of years. He has problems hearing and short term memory loss from a brain tumor 25 years ago. My mother is a nurse of 50 years and can at times be very controlling when it comes to health care for family members. My father died of heart problems about 4 months ago and my mother was the primary caregiver for him. There were many times while she cared for my father that she had emotional/physical breakdowns. When she has these breakdowns she can be very mean and abusive to everyone around (nurses, doctors, and family).

After my father passed away her personality changed back into a caring and warm person. That changed again right after xmas. She began to try to control everything related to my brother's care. This escalated this weekend to the point where she says my brother is her only child. She even made a comment to my 21 year daughter that she only has one son. My brother wants to remain at my sister's house because he feels more secure and safe. We contacted Hospice and a nurse came by on Saturday to talk to my family. My mother almost would not come into the room because she said she was not involved in the decision. My mother did come in and we had what I thought was a good talk with the nurse. My brother felt very at ease with her. At some point my mother brought up the fact that she is a nurse of 50 years, yelled at my sister and stormed out of the room. I can not say what set her off.

My brother understands the situation because we went through it with my dad. I would like to get my mom some help but there is no way she would talk to a social worker and she has alienated most of the rest of her family and friends. She is in her upper 70s and has some of her own medical needs that she will not attend to because she says she does not have time. She is tired but will not let anyone help. She insists on spending the whole day and night(if she could) with my brother.
Any suggestions??

soccerfreaks's picture
soccerfreaks
Posts: 2801
Joined: Sep 2006

Your mom is not a nurse any more.

She can look like a nurse, perhaps, smell like one, sound like one, talk like one, INTUIT like one, but I strongly suspect that at her age she is NOT a nurse anymore.

Except for her son, currently. Because you and others let her be one.

Cutting to the quick: if a 78 year old woman is dictating how things will be and you, maybe in your 40s, maybe in your 50s, maybe even in your 60s, are letting her do that, then she is in the driver's seat and deservedly so.

That said, be advised if you didn't already know, and I think you did, that this is hot stuff, lots of drama, lots of shouting and finger-pointing and the like. Cancer 'gets' to have us physically, but it is up to us to let it gnaw on our brains, our hearts, our love, memories, connections.

Don't let it do it.

You are going to let it do it, I suspect, because you have some issues with brother's status with mom, among other things.

If your brother's status with mom is the sole source of your anger and confusion, I would suggest that you let it go. You have said much that reveals you know what is going on, that mom is in a fairly severe focus right now.

Should she not be? Her son is dying.

My suggestion would be to support her in this effort (I note that when you mention your brother, it is as an impediment to your mom's attention or to describe the purported reason for that attention (as if he wanted it)).

He is dying. What part of that do you not get?

Let your brother have his moment. Let your mom deal with this in her own way.

One man's opinion.

Best wishes to brother, mom, and the entire family.

Take care,

Joe

augigi
Posts: 89
Joined: Dec 2009

"Your mom is not a nurse any more. She can look like a nurse, perhaps, smell like one, sound like one, talk like one, INTUIT like one, but I strongly suspect that at her age she is NOT a nurse anymore."

I have to disagree there - once a nurse, always a nurse. And nurses like to be in control, particularly where healthcare is concerned. I am a nurse, and so is my mum, so I am currently experiencing this distressing loss of control!

I would see if you can talk to your mum and include her in the decision making, but be firm that the final decisions will be what is best for your brother's AND her health.

grandmafay's picture
grandmafay
Posts: 1614
Joined: Aug 2009

For the first time ever, I respectfully disagree somewhat with Joe. As a fairly new widow, I can relate somewhat to your mom. I can't help but think that she is trying to forget some of her grief over your father's death by caring for your brother. That may be a way of coping. She is still in the anger stage of grief and now she is facing a new loss. Also, she is facing her own mortality. It also sounds like she needs some physical care. You and your sister are also grieving for your father and facing the loss of your brother. I am very sorry that you are all going through this.

Now, one woman's thoughts: Your first concern needs to be your brother. His needs need to be met first. Does his mother's behaviors bother him? Is he comfortable with her taking over his care or even just being there all the time? This is a decision for him to make. If he wants things to change, he needs to say so. Then those around him need to see that change happens. Do what you have to do. Expect and deal with the drama.

I have also taken care of my aging mother. She was 81 when my father died. I insisted that she have a complete physical. The dr. put her on an antidepressant. Also, I noticed that my mother became what is often referred to as "More So." She had always been shy and she became more so. As a nurse your mother has probably often felt in charge of things. Now she may be more so. She may also be developing some dementia. Ask the dr. about this. One friend of mine who recently lost her husband was also a nurse and took very good care of her husband before his death. After his death, she very quickly went from early stage Alzheimer to needing care. She is about your mother's age Grief does strange things to us.I hope this helps a little. Fay

soccerfreaks's picture
soccerfreaks
Posts: 2801
Joined: Sep 2006

I think we are in agreement, actually, Fay, although you say it much better: right now, the concern should be for the brother.

Take care,

Joe

grandmafay's picture
grandmafay
Posts: 1614
Joined: Aug 2009

I'm glad we agree. I was afraid I was seeing things wrong. Your posts are always so helpful. Fay

MIMI of 4
Posts: 8
Joined: Dec 2009

I have to agree with Grandmafay and add, Once a mother always a mother, and speaking from personal experience(nurse for 40yrs) once a nurse always a nurse. As nurses we are always "fixing" things, some of your mother's anger and frustration may be from not being able to make her son better. Hospice is an excellent choice, and I believe they will be able to help with your mother also. Most provide counseling, listening, services for the family. She may be better able to talk with another nurse or social worker than any of her children. You didn't say how much help your brother requires but I'm sure there is some need for help. Try to find your mother some "nursing duties" that she can do like feeding him his meals if that is necessary or changing bed linens, or help with bathing, or putting lotion on back, feet and legs after he has bathed himself. Make sure this is all right with your brother. A few duties like this will help her feel like she is helping both as a nurse and as a mother.

bluerose's picture
bluerose
Posts: 1089
Joined: Jul 2009

When I was reading about your situation with your Mother augigi that's what came to mind first, your Mother is transferring her caretaking from your Dad now that he has passed to your brother. I totally think it's one of her ways of coping with the loss of her husband - start caretaking for another sick family member. Besides being a Mother (natural caretaker) her needs to care as a nurse on top of that equals a huge emotional need within her to take control of the situation. I am not condoning her behaviour just commenting on the possible 'whys' of it all at this point.

As Fay said everyone is still dealing with your Dad's death all in their own ways and in their own stages of grief, it can indeed be a volatile situation if everyone isn't on the same page.

I agree that your brother should be the one to call the shots in this to some degree, tell you how this is affecting him then it's up to you and the other family members to make his wishes come true.

Your Mum probably needs a good amount of care herself and maybe you could have her observed by respite or someone else who is there helping with your brother but between you and them will also observe your Mum for signs of issues she needs to address. I don't know if your Mum will come out and show herself in attitude to allow someone else to observe but it's worth a try. Also perhaps you can just personally speak with respite about the situation my guess is that they have seen similiar issues before and might be able to offer up solutions for you as well.

The focus has to be on your brother absolutely and the sooner this drama ends the sooner he will be more able to rest and focus on what is important.

You are in my prayers. Hugs. Bluerose

AnnaLeigh's picture
AnnaLeigh
Posts: 177
Joined: Jan 2010

There has been an abundance of caring and valuable advice offered to you and I would only add that the depth of the caregiving your mother offers is only equal to the depth of her love for that person. And so for her to give up the caregiver role may seem to her like abandoning her love also. Just a little insight into her pain - perhaps.

The advice about a division of duties between your mother and a professional sounds like a great one if your brother agrees. It may provide room for your mother to continue to participate in the care and also allow for her to participate in the decisions while giving her time to tend to her own medical needs. I know how hard it is for some to give up complete control. Since we cannot control the cancer, we then try to control everything else around us in order to feel we have some sort of grip on life.

Let your mother know she is still needed but perhaps she is needed in a very different way now. She can now fulfill the role of teacher by showing the family about the depths of love and caring for others by way of caring for oneself first in order to be able to care for those who need our help and assistance.

Many blessings to you and your family,

AnnaLeigh

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