How can I deal with my mother's aggressive behavior?

Carolaniles asked...

I moved to Florida from New York to help my eighty-eight year old mother since she can no longer live alone and she lives in a very isolated area. The last time I saw her was seven years ago when she was at my home in New York and now she does not seem to know who I am most of the time. I previously spoke to her every day on the phone and up until about three months before I got here in August, she just seemed to be a little forgetful. Even though her doctor felt that she had Alzheimer's, I didn't think it could be so until she started asking me questions like, "Where do you live?" She also stopped calling me and sending cards and notes. Now that I am here, I can see the symptoms very clearly. She constantly moves and hides items, and loses things. The most distressful symptom is aggressive behavior toward me. She constantly berates, ridicules, mocks, and physically abuses me. She says that I am not her daughter and that if she finds out that I am she will kill me. She also insists that I have stolen all of her money and that I am here to get everything that I can get. I am her closest living relative, and she is mine. This is a very distressing and dangerous situation, and I have been advised to put her into a facility. I personalize the whole situation even though I know that she is not acting as my mother would act if she were her old self. Is this a common occurrence for Alzheimer's patients to not recognize someone close?

Expert Answer

A social worker and geriatric consultant who specializes in dementia care, Joyce Simard is based in Land O' Lakes, Florida, and in Prague. She is a well-known speaker and has written two books, one focusing on end-of-life care and the other, entitled The Magic Tape Recorder, explaining aging, memory loss, and how children can be helpers to their elders.

Yes, it's common for a person with memory loss not to recognize a family member. Your mother is now living in the past when you were a young child; she doesn't remember you as an adult. Please seek help immediately. You must not allow your mother to abuse you in any way. Call her physician to report what's happening as medication may help get her through this difficult time. You also need to visit Dementia Units at longterm care facilities so that if she needs to be admitted to one, you are prepared. It's difficult to make this type of decision during a crisis.