Today I Screamed at my 80 year-old Mother

by Admin K on August 13, 2008

I can't believe it. This afternoon, I actually screamed at my mother while I was on the phone with her. I'm not a screamer. I haven't screamed at my mother since I was a teenager. I know it isn't effective communication. So what would provoke such behavior on my part?  Driving her car.

Mom got diagnosed with mild Parkinson's disease over a year ago and she is on medication. The medication seems to be keeping it from progressing. She just had rotator cuff surgery on her left shoulder this summer and her right shoulder needs to be re-operated on because the "screws are coming loose" from her previous shoulder surgery. She can't bend her left knee because it is permanently locked in one position from a knee replacement surgery she had a few years ago and her other knee is so bad the doctor recommended a replacement for that knee — but she doesn't want to do that again since the other one "didn't work". (She refused to go to a rehab facility after her first knee replacement, an essential component for successful knee replacement.) She's also deaf without her hearing aids and had cataract surgery done on her eyes last year and is "still having trouble with her eyes".  

I talked to her two days ago about her driving. Her neurologist said she shouldn't be driving so she got another neurologist (I haven't met the new one yet).  Because of her recent shoulder surgery, she hasn't been able to drive for the last two months. She said she just got the okay from her orthopedist to "resume her normal activities".  So she said she was ready to drive again.  She "had" to get to the dry cleaner and go to the post office. 

She drives slowly (often less than the speed limit) and gets confused by traffic changes (which happen all the time in Northern Virginia). However, she says that when she drives she "only goes to the store, and church and places I know where I'm going and I don't drive when there's a lot of traffic". 

I told her that's not the point.

Two days ago, I had a nice conversation with her and told her I was worried she was going to hurt herself or someone else and reminded her that her doctor had said she shouldn't be driving. I told her my brother and I had talked and we were in 100% agreement that we thought it was dangerous for her to be driving. She said she understood and had decided to sell her car and she would try and find someone to drive her where she wanted to go. I was enormously relieved.  

Then this morning she told she had just "run a few errands and there really wasn't anyone else on the road" (not too believable in Northern VA). She said she had done just fine. 

I flipped. I was so exasperated.  "Mom. Why are you doing this?  You know you aren't supposed to be driving! You said you wouldn't drive. It's dangerous for you and for other people." 

She said she wasn't going to tell me she was driving and it just slipped out.

I started yelling at her. "MOM, you are making bad decisions.  Why are you taking the risk?  You have plenty of options in your retirement community. You don't need to do this."

She said, "I'm not going to listen to you talk to me like this." and she hung up on me!

Ugh  I called her back and she called me a "brat" and I said (equally maturely) she was being an irresponsible old lady and she hung up on me again.

I kept calling her and she refused to answer.  I finally left her a message and said, "Okay you win, Mom.  You call me when you're ready."

And that was how it ended.  

I'm a wreck. I know my mom doesn't want to give up her independence (but she really does have lots of options to get around). I know this is a hard thing for her.  But do I let her get in, or worse, cause an accident because she is having a hard time losing her independence?

Nobody is going to challenge her on it but me and my brother (who has also told her she shouldn't be driving). The doctor goes on to the next patient. She isn't due to get her license renewed for awhile.  

I'm a mess. I know she's upset with me and I'm upset with her.  Oh, and then when I talked to my brother after she hung up on me the last time, I found out that mom talked with the woman who works for my brother today and told her she was going to sell her car… but she decided her car was too big and that's what the problem was so she was going to go out and buy and new, "smaller" car. Aaahhhhh.

Talking to her hasn't helped (I've already done that about five times).  Obviously, screaming at her has probablly made things worse.  

I'm at a total loss. I know I am the bad guy and she is mad at me.  I also know she is potentially dangerous even if she wasn't in an accident this morning when she drove.  

Is there an answer?  I pray there is before it is too late.  

 

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Gail Hyatt 08.14.08 at 5:46 am

I was laughing hard when I was reading this, until I read “I flipped,” “I’m a wreck,” “I’m a mess,” “I’m at a total loss.” Then I teared up. I am very sorry. What a difficult and painful place to be. Sounds like she must have a authority figure tell her how it has to be – and you are not the one. You are, and always will be, her little girl. Maybe you should send this post to her doctor and sign it “I’m desperate. Help.” I love you.

Dianne Tant 08.14.08 at 8:17 am

My Mom had to have an excuse (Vertigo) to stop driving so it would not mean that the cause was her dimished driving skills.
You think this is bad?…wait till you have to “force” her to move to Assisted living. I did that in April and she called me “cruel and mean”

dearkaren 08.14.08 at 8:42 pm

Gail and Dianne,

Even thought I feel like an awful daughter (and I know my mother is mad at me!), I am so appreciative of your support and understanding. I know I’m not the only one with these challenges. Thanks for your love, understanding and advice!

Sharon Dale 08.23.08 at 11:07 pm

Karen– Steve’s parent are going through the same thing with his grandfather… It sounds all to familiar your story, frustration and reactions. I am learning that caring for your adult parents is harder than caring for your toddler at times. At least that is what I have heard. Sharon

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