How do we deal with Mom's emotions and denial about her new living arrangements?

3 answers | Last updated: Sep 14, 2017
Daughter in law asked...

My mother-in-law went from hospital to rehab center to nursing care recently. Prior to this my husband & I struggled to try to convince her that she was no longer safe living alone. She had to stop driving, wasn't managing her medications, housekeeping or nutrition any longer. We had hoped she would be eligible for assisted living & hoped to move her to our state, but her cognitive issues & strength are such that she isn't eligible for assisted living. She struggles with coming to terms with her new reality & regularly argues with my husband that she wants to move home, despite the fact that her limited equity co-op is being sold in order to get this only asset paid down so that she qualifies for Medicaid. We have an elder care attorney, he has durable power of attorney & health care proxy and has worked with the professionals at her center and her, to help her with this transition. But, she goes back and forth in understanding all of this. Soon the co-op will be sold and we now have to contend with decisions about all her belongings. I am very anxious about discussing this with her and wonder how best to deal with this. We can store her very personal mementos, jewelry and some other things, but we probably have to get rid of most of her stuff. Any advice on how we should communicate with her about this? Should we avoid discussing this with her in any great detail? We appreciate your advice.

Expert Answers

Mikol Davis, PhD has worked in community hospitals with geriatric patients suffering from dementia, depression, and other psychiatric problems. He has a doctorate in Psychology from the University of San Francisco and has been in private practice in Marin County, California. Davis co-founded with his wife, Carolyn Rosenblatt.

It's a tall order to cope with Alzheimer's, your parent's emotions and moving. In communicating with your mom, realize that your feeling guilty may cause you to need to justify and explain what you're doing. It isn't necessary to give your mom with Alzheimer's too much information. It will not make her feel better to justify and explain a lot to her. Her ability to take in and process some of the information is likely to be limited. Your focus needs to be on getting mom into a safe environment. You need to get emotional support for yourself from a trained professional who understands the challenge of families dealing with Alzheimer's disease. Make the decisions you feel are best for your mom about her belongings. If you can keep a few of her favorite items in view, wherever she is, it may be useful. If she does ultimately qualify for Medicaid and you need to place her in a memory care facility, don't bring valuables with her. They have a way of disappearing in any facility. Other treasured things, photos, or mementos of family are safe and may help her for a time to keep track of her loved ones.
As a general rule, when communicating with any person with Alzheimer's, keep it simple and concrete. Don't provide too much information,as it is likely to be overwhelming and can become stressful as she tries to take in more than her capacity allows.

Community Answers

Handiann answered...

I would recommend you get some help from a professional organizer who has experience with seniors moving and getting rid of their precious stuff. One person who I've seen on a number of professional boards who seems very caring is Marilyn Ellis, of Lighthouse Organizers. Her website is . If she can't help you, I'm sure she can tell you how to get in touch with someone in your area. Good luck, I'm sure it's not easy.

Remyellen answered...

Hello, I am from California and my work experiences of 16 years includes as a social service director in nursing home facilities, assisted living facility administrator (RCFE licensed) and as a case manager for a group of psychiatrists tendering care for nursing home residents. You are not alone, and yes dealing with our aging elders can be overwhelming especially if you are not equipped with the right tools to deal with the situation and oftentimes it is compounded by denial factor on both sides irrespective of the good intentions. You didn't mention why she went from hospital to rehab to nursing facility and I assumed she had fallen and broke something and underwent some type of surgery to go that route. You didn't say if she was diagnosed with Dementia or Alzheimer or any type of cognitive issues. If she was, was it a primary diagnosis? was it manageable by any means? If her forgetfulness is bad enough that you and your husband want her to stop from driving, this is not your job, only her primary care doctor can do that. By law they are mandated to fill out a form to send to DMV and your mother in law don't even have to know that. She will get a letter in the mail stating suspension of her driving privileges for a variety of reasons, or she might be ask to come in for testing. When she gets that letter and seek your assistance of understanding it, then just try to explain in simple terms that she can understand. Involve her doctor in the process, that way you do not become her enemy. Your responsibility is to make an appointment with her doctor and discuss both of your concerns to ensure her safety and well-being. Now, you mentioned of placing her in assisted living; there are assisted living facilities that specializes with memory problems and try to look for smaller homes like maybe capacity of 6, that way she will be closely supervise. Smaller homes like these are set up just like our own homes to decrease the level of anxiety and and the client's room is decorated with their own personal affects to make them feel at home. Keep in mind as well, that even though there is a Power of Attorney, that paper only becomes valid when the subject is not able to make sound decisions for themselves. Meaning if she can still decide for herself, then neither your husband or you can make decisions for her even if both of you were named as her health care agents or executor. So her level of cognition as to how severe her memory problem is will play a big factor in here. In dealing with her avoid using the word "you cannot do this, you cannot do that" despite your good intentions. For now, just explain to her, Mom or whatever you call her, this is where you gonna be until you get better. You see? everybody here cares about you and is doing their part help you get back to where you were before. If she ask when she's going home; just say, we will discuss that when the time comes when everybody thinks you can. Right now you are doing very well everyday, take your time, be patient and you'll get there. Be supportive of her in any way you can and praise her for her efforts to avoid arguments that both of you don't need as it don't take you in any better place to begin with. And just a reminder also, you can secure her belongings but don't discuss with her what you are doing with it. As a family and or caregiver, you and your husband also need to breathe, understand the disease process, join a support group if that is helpful to you or find someone who you are comfortable with to vent where your mother-in-laws privacy rights are not violated. Social workers in health care facilities are there for that purpose. Good luck..