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Angry at Alzheimer's in Mother

How to cope with her forgetfulness

Peggy Elam

Question :

My 85-year-old mother has Alzheimer's and lives in a wonderful assisted living center. I am 52, and I spend lots of time with her. I know it is the disease, not mom, that makes her act the way she acts, repeat things, forget things, hallucinate, become paranoid, etc. But I keep getting angrier and angrier at her and the damned disease that is taking my mom from me piece by piece. I end up releasing all this anger on mom. I tell myself not to yell at her or upset her, but inevitably I do it again. I can't spend more than two or three hours with her. I start yelling at everyone around me. I cry and cry. And I feel so guilty. I am aware that there is nothing she can do to help herself, so I guess I am the one who needs the help. Any suggestions on how to focus my anger?


Answer :

Yours is a difficult situation. It's so frustrating when the health (or mental condition) of someone we love is deteriorating and there's nothing we can do about it. In your case, you're going through a tremendous loss, and it's understandable that you would be hurt and angry. Even though your mother is still alive, you've lost the mother you've always known. You may need to accept and grieve that loss.

One possibility is to keep a private journal about your feelings. Let it all out in those pages. You don't have to share what you write with anyone unless you want to. You might try journaling before and after you visit your mother, to see if that helps you discharge and process some feelings in ways you don't regret.

I also encourage you to seek support from those around you -- spouse or partner, friends, adult children. Most of all, though, support and take care of yourself. The situation with your mother is tremendously stressful, and it's probably coming on top of other stresses at home and work. Try to take some time to nurture yourself every day, whether that's with a warm bath, a walk in the woods, reading a pleasurable book or magazine, spending some leisure time with friends or family, or getting a massage. Regular exercise and good nutrition are also good for stress management.

You might find it helpful to join a support group for caregivers and family members of individuals with Alzheimer's. The Alzheimer's Association (1-800-272-3900) may be able to steer you to a nearby group. (If not, the staff at your mother's assisted living center might be able to recommend one -- or start one!)



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