faking illnesses

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buffalogirl18
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Date Joined Mar 2008
Total Posts : 41
   Posted 5/13/2008 1:35 PM (GMT -6)   
anyone out there have this issue:
my 83 year old mother in law has a constant habit every couple of months of faking an illness, whether it be chest pains, shortness of breath, stomach pains... it has to be something serious yet vague enough that it will require my husband or my sister in law to take her to the hospital, and due to her age and medical history they then have to at least keep her over night for tests and observation.  75% of the time they find absolutely nothing wrong with her, aside from the fact that she does it because she likes the attention.  So, what do we do about this?  She takes Xanax for anxiety, although I don't think she takes it enough, the doctor prescribed it 4 times a day but she  only takes it 2 times a day.  She says it makes her too groggy.  I think she needs an antidepressant as well.  She constantly overexaggerates her symptoms from constipation, to chest pains, to simple minor arthritis, she constantly thinks she is dying - yet all of her doctors give her a clean bill of health.  She sits all day with oxygen on and doesnt even need it.  Most days she refuses to get out of her pajamas. She even gets upset about the weather, a little rain and wind and she thinks we are gonna get a tornado - we live in Buffalo - we have never had a tornado where we live! She has irrational thoughts and fears, she constantly nags us about anything and everything, she says things that are inappropriate to people, or deliberately to hurt their feelings.  I just think she needs something more than an anxiety pill. Thoughts?

djdaz_1985
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   Posted 5/13/2008 2:52 PM (GMT -6)   

Hi there,

This sounds like a complicated problem. It does sound like attention seeking behaviour and there is an outside chance that this is something called 'Munchausen's Syndrome' It is basically a psychological disorder whereby someone fakes an illness / symptoms or harms themselves in order to create an illness. This is a link to an NHS website which has more details on it: http://www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk/articles/article.aspx?articleId=256 

That said, Munchausen's Syndrome is very rare and the most likely answer to this is that it is simply attention seeking behaviour. Have you considered having a psychological assessment done when she next in hospital? I think this would be a good first step to take but make sure you get to speak to the psychologist as well so that he/she gets a full picture. I dont think at this point it is anti-depressants that your mum needs. I get the feeling that what she needs isnt a pill but social interaction.

Darren



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buffalogirl18
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Date Joined Mar 2008
Total Posts : 41
   Posted 5/13/2008 2:57 PM (GMT -6)   
thanks for the input, I dont think its Munchhausens, and we have offered her all kinds of interaction from senior social groups, church groups, we try to get her out for dinner, she has a day care giver that comes in for four hours every morning, and we all pitch in to try and spend time with her when ever we can, but she is very negative about everything, and she always turns us down whenever we try to get her out of the house.  I am the daughter in law, so my hands are tied.  All I can do is make observations and suggestions to my husband and his sister,  It really frustrates me, and it really kills me how much stress it has caused all of us.

Judy2
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   Posted 5/13/2008 3:39 PM (GMT -6)   
Does she have any activities to do or any company that visits her regularly? You might check to see if there's an Aduld Day Healthcare program in your area (check with your state or local aging agency.) These can be a godsend for families struggling with elderly family members needs. Even if you visit her daily or she lives with you but stays home while you work, she may feel very lonely and abandoned. When we have nothing to do, the minutes can stretch into hours and it can easily seem that no one ever talks to us or visits. Older people lose touch with how busy we are with our jobs, homes and families, and begin to feel neglected and abandoned even though we're giving them more attention than we really have time to give. If this is the case with her, having an activity program to go to during the day might be helpful.

Good luck, buffalogirl. If it turns out this is totally manipulation, you could consider not rushing over when she gets "sick", but arranging for a medical transport service to take her to the hospital.
Judy
 
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unplugged
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Date Joined May 2008
Total Posts : 8
   Posted 5/13/2008 7:45 PM (GMT -6)   
buffalogirl,

this is a mystery to me! i can imagine it is frustrating. Actually, about a year or so ago, my grandma was diagnosed with macular degeneration, and she has been receiving a new treatment, it is still in experimental stages. But it seems to be offering a great deal of improvement. The doctor said that her vision has improved to 20/40, and she was nearly blind before! She swears up and down that she still can't see a thing. But sometimes I see her picking up little pieces of things on the ground. It seems she turns it on and off. None of my family is sure how to deal with it, and it is certainly causing them a great deal of stress as well. My only thought is that she takes comfort in the fact that all of her kids take care of her and give her undivided attention that she may not get if she wasn't so debilitated...

buffalogirl18
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Date Joined Mar 2008
Total Posts : 41
   Posted 5/13/2008 8:21 PM (GMT -6)   
Yeah, we have tried everything we can think of at this point.  She lives 3 blocks from us, she has a day care giver that comes 4 hours a day, we bring her dinner every night or bring her to our house for dinner, we offer to get her involved in outside activities through church and senior groups but she refuses. She has gone so far as to tell my husband and my sister in law that she wants them to move back home with her!  She knows that is not an option.  They both have families of their own to care for.  She plays off their guilt, feeds off it, she even says things deliberately just to get a reaction out of them, out of me, whenever possible.  It is really very sad.  The hard part is that my kids, age 14 and 6 are stuck in the middle.  THey dont even want to spend time with their grandma at all.  She is so negative about everything, and acts like she is dying all the time, they hate being around her,  and there is nothing wrong with her!  We catch her all the time walking fine without her walker, she will forget to use it on occassion, we catch her suddenly "hearing us" when her hearing aid isn't in her ear.... the list goes on and on.  So,  I know much of her ailments are fake/exaggerated so that she can get attention.  We have tried positive reinforcement, we have tried ignoring her, we have tried everything in between.  Short of having my husband just confront her and say "we know you are full of crap, and we know you are a liar, so just stop already", but how do you say that to an 83 year old woman?  I wish he would just do it already! I have a feeling if he doesnt soon, I will! He begs me, as the daughter in law, to keep my mouth shut, but it affects me just as much as it affects him, every time she pulls a stunt and drags him to the ER when we are supposed to be going somewhere as a family.

ShynSassy
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Date Joined Dec 2005
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   Posted 5/14/2008 5:59 AM (GMT -6)   
I work with Elderly patients everyday,and this is a very common thing.
It really sounds like depression has set in with her. I understand your frustration as a family going back and forth to the Er ect. But, at some point she is 83 years old,and she is crying out. It is really sad.

Also, if your husband is not willing to confront her,then at some point you just are going to have to stand back,and let the family take care of it.

If you want to do more,then talk to the family about confronting her doctor,Xanax is a very harsh med,and I am sure it does make her groggy,and therefore it is just going to make her depression worse.

She might be seeing her life flashing by,she might be afraid of getting old,and not doing the things that she wants to do.
Encouraging her to join the family on trips, or trying to figure out what makes her happy.
We have a patient that is 102 years old,she refuses to let her age hold her back,so she goes dancing once a week. We also have one that promised her husband that she would live life no matter how old she was,and she goes on a trip at least every other month.
I am sure she has many interests,and once the family tries to figure out what those are,and then by her getting on a med that actually helps her instead of drugging her up, then I would think she would feel alot better.
Depression is harsh,and I think it is worse for our older family members.

Good luck,and please keep us updated.
Shy


Mod- Depression

Chronic Depression, Panic Attacks,Anxiety Attacks,Anorexia

Please remember,I am not a professional..I am just a person who is also fighting depression.


I know I'm in my own little world, but it's ok. They know me here.

Post Edited (ShynSassy) : 5/14/2008 6:04:19 AM (GMT-6)


getting by
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Date Joined Sep 2007
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   Posted 5/14/2008 7:01 AM (GMT -6)   
I tend to agree with Shy here, you may have to step back and let the immediate family deal with this, but by all means give suggestions. After all she is 83 and is wanting attention. She just doesn't know the right way to go about it.

If they want to be there for er calls, let them. Maybe you and your kids can just stay home. That way it wont effect them so much. I know that it is hard, but older people tend to get set in their ways and like I say she may not know another way to get attention. She could be forgetting too.

Once my grandmother was looking for her dentures. The first thing that I noticed was that she was walking without the walker and the second thing I noticed was that her dentures were in her mouth. She got so persistant on looking for them that she forgot she couldn't walk well. Eventually she did take a fall. And she got worse. Then she forgot that she even neede a walker to walk and she wasn't able to walk without it. So they can get really confused at times. And some are just plain stubborn.

I do wish you luck with this, I know that it isn't easy. But when your husband gets fed up with the er trips, he will definately find something to do about it. Maybe it is time for placement. But I would let them confront her and stand back. That could strengthen your relationship in the long run.

Good luck'
hugs, Karen
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buffalogirl18
Regular Member


Date Joined Mar 2008
Total Posts : 41
   Posted 5/14/2008 8:59 AM (GMT -6)   

thanks all of you for your words of encouragement and suggestions, I am going to continue to "vent" and hopefully mention things I have forgotten to before, and maybe you can continur to help...

She has been pulling this stuff for many years, long before my father in law passed away, long before she was 'elderly", probably long before I knew her, from what I have heard from other relatives, she has pulled this attention getting stuff, this faking illnesses, this overexaggerating things, this deliberately saying things to hurt peoples feelings, this fear of weather stuff since she was probably in her 50's. I think they just assumed it was a character flaw or something, except that as she gets older it gets worse and worse, and as we get older and busier there are fewer of us around to deal with her. And, now that she is 83 she just expects everyone else to do everything for her.  The worst part of all is, a year ago she had a "stroke" not even a full blown stroke, she only had a TIA, confirmed by MRI, no evidence of permanent damage.  She has all her faculties, but she claimed weakness in her legs.  The weakness in her legs was actually muscle atrophy because the woman spends all of her days sitting in a recliner doing nothing and what little walking she does is to the bathroom with a walker! So, she convinced the hospital to send her to a nursing home for 2 weeks of rehab. Then she went home afterward. Well, my sister in law is really no help in this, she bought into the whole thing at the time, and the nurses at the nursing home made all these "helpful" suggestions to her about how to make the house safer for my mother in law. So, while my mother in law was in rehab my sister in law practically made her house look like the nursing home! She put a special chair on the toilet, a seat in the shower, a bar on her bed, she even took oxygen home with her! It is ridiculous. They rearranged all the cupboards in the house to make them "accessable".  They started the day care giver 4 hours a day to help her bathe and stuff. And, now I am obligated to make her dinner every night and my husband brings her a plate.  Now, on nights we have other plans, she is perfectly capable of cooking for herself, I have seen her do it.  She even makes a full dinner - lamb chops and all.  My sister in law has gone too far, made things so convenient for her, that she practically does nothing for herself anymore - she doesnt have to! And, I think she has just decided that she doesnt want to either. We bend over backwards to invite her to come out to eat, to go places, and she always says no, and what few times we talk her into coming, she is very negative, pouting, she makes it miserable for everyone, and embarasses the kids, it's awful.  I just dont know what to do anymore. Help!


crohnie1985
Regular Member


Date Joined Nov 2007
Total Posts : 105
   Posted 5/15/2008 2:26 PM (GMT -6)   
Hi,
I have read most of what has been said here and honestly I have mixed feelings. It's hard for us to understand what being an 83 year old feels like, and I guess one day we will. As for me being in my late 40s so far it's been a struggle, your mind says one thing and your body another, you can't do the things younger people can do. As we slowly age the fun things we used to do go away one by one and still we try to hang on in vein, only to have the memories of those times remaining. I am sure it's frustrating and unpleasant. just think for a moment the things we take for granted each day. I know there are lots of older people who are happy and adjust to getting old, but for others it's difficult. I know it's a pain to cater to her, but she won't be here much longer, best not to have regrets after shes gone, maybey deep down she is real nice, just that she don't know how to show it, just love her while shes till around, lifes very fragile, do what you can and forget about what you can't.

Mochiah
Regular Member


Date Joined Dec 2007
Total Posts : 450
   Posted 5/15/2008 3:46 PM (GMT -6)   
Buffalogirl -
I have to say that I agree with Shy, especially because she has the experience of working with the elderly.

I know you have said you invite her to family outings and she refuses, maybe she is looking for her son and daughter to say "we're not taking no for an answer." To her that would seem like they really do want her around. She could be feeling like she is imposing and that she is just being asked out of consideration. She just wants to be shown they really mean it and it isn't hot air.

Also, being the daughter-in-law I would say let them handle it, or run it past them before taking action. I know this has to be so difficult, but for the sake of your family and your marriage try to take a back seat. It doesn't have to be a competition between you and mom, she isn't going to be around forever and then you can have your family back.

Oh, I also have to give a shout out to you for being in Western New York....I was born in Cheektowaga, grew up in Springville, and my grandparents were in Buffalo. I moved away at 20 and have actually missed all that snow!
Mochiah/a.k.a. Sue
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buffalogirl18
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Date Joined Mar 2008
Total Posts : 41
   Posted 5/15/2008 5:10 PM (GMT -6)   

thanks all for your words of encouragement, I guess I havent been strong enough in conveying my feelings here though.  It has gotten to the point where none of us, not even my husband or my sister in law, even want to be around her.  She is just unbarable. One minute we feel sorry for her, the next we are just disgusted with her.  You cant imagine what she puts us through, it is like living with a crazy person.

My sister in law told me yesterday, they are bringing someone in to give her a psych evaluation, making it look like it is just a friend of hers coming over for a social visit, hopefully this will help, and we can get her the help she needs, and get all of us some peace. If not, maybe it is just time to move her to a nursing home, because I cant see any other way to care for her properly at this point.  She really doesnt need to be at one, there really isnt anything physically limiting her to the point that she needs to be cared for that much, but she may just push it that far.


getting by
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Total Posts : 32147
   Posted 5/15/2008 6:41 PM (GMT -6)   
Maybe being in a nursing home will be what is best though. She might even make some friends there, also they do games and some exercising. She just might like it. She will definately get plenty of attention there. There will always be somebody taking care of her so the family wont have to worry. It sounds like a solution all the way around.

Hugs, Karen
  Moderator-Depression
 
fibromyalgia, Chronic fatigue, depression,allergies


ShynSassy
Veteran Member


Date Joined Dec 2005
Total Posts : 3036
   Posted 5/16/2008 5:42 AM (GMT -6)   
I was thinking the same thing Karen.. or what about he assisted living? the places here take the residents on monthly trips that do not cost them alot. And they have great meals,and usually great apartments.


Something to think about...
Shy


Mod- Depression

Chronic Depression, Panic Attacks,Anxiety Attacks,Anorexia

Please remember,I am not a professional..I am just a person who is also fighting depression.


I know I'm in my own little world, but it's ok. They know me here.


Mochiah
Regular Member


Date Joined Dec 2007
Total Posts : 450
   Posted 5/18/2008 2:11 AM (GMT -6)   
That psych eval sounds like an excellent plan. You and the others need someone on your side who medically understands what it is she is doing. Assisted living would really be a great option. I wish I could remember where it was my grandpa went (since he was in Buffalo too), but he really enjoyed the outings and interaction....he even met his second wife there and enjoyed about another 10 years of life with her before passing.
Mochiah/a.k.a. Sue
cervical fusion 2006
L4-5 surgery with cages, plates, and screws in 2005
MEDS:  Fentanyl patch, Norco, Celexa, trazodone, and Flexeril
 
To handle yourself, use your head...to handle others, use your heart
 
I'm going to smile like nothing is wrong, act like everything is perfect, and pretend its not hurting me.


djdaz_1985
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Date Joined Jan 2006
Total Posts : 2408
   Posted 5/19/2008 3:39 AM (GMT -6)   

Maybe this is her way of trying to tell you she is not happy at home? Perhaps she has not been happy where she has been for a number of years (30-odd by my count) and the only way she knows how to cope with it is to have respite from it every now and again (in the form of hospital / nursing home stays). If she has been doing this for 30 years, I doubt she even has to think about it now. It probably comes second nature to her and she probably doesnt even know shes doing it since she has probably convinced herself after doing it for so long. I guess the solution is to find somewhere where she can stay on a permanent basis... Karen and Shy have given you great ideas there. I would look at assisted living first though since it is the least restrictive.

Darren


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destiny lee
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Date Joined May 2008
Total Posts : 1
   Posted 5/19/2008 3:45 PM (GMT -6)   
buffalogirl18
hi, after reading what you have written i have realised i have alot in common with you. my mother is exactly the same and to give you a brief story about it on the 24th of april 2008 i recieved a phone call from her stating she has cancer in the blood and that she needed keemo ASAP, nothing has happened, on the 25th of april her husband went into hospital with a "heart attack" but was let out early on the 27th. on the 8th of may 2008 her husband went back into hospital for a "heart attack" and was let out late that night. on the 9th of may 2008 my mother went back into hospital suffering from an infected gallbladder, on the 11th of may while she was still in hospital she had a heart attack, on the 13th they went to operate (no signs of having a drip) the drip they gave her nearly "killed" her. On the 13th of may 2008 late in the afternoon they released her from hospital. On the 14th of may 2008 she went back to getting paid cash in hand so centrelink dont find out (as she is on a dissability pension). On the 16th of may 2008 her husband suffered another "heart attack" but was released the same day and told he had to take it easy. it seems that there is always a drama in her life and if there isnt she will create one, like ..... my sister and i got sexualy abused by her now ex husband and she tells everyone about it in full detail and says but he was bashing me as well, she stayed with him for 6 months after she found out what was happening and says its cause she didnt have the money to get us out of there she even left us alone with him. i think the reason my mother is the way she is, is because she wants sympathy. it has gotten that bad at the moment that i dont even want to talk to her and i am planning to move away from her and move about 3 hours away just so i dont have to hear it. i do know what you are going through and i cant suggest anything that can help something like this other than dont when she is telling you all the negative in her life and how sick she is dont give her any sympathy at all because she will play on that.

i hope this helps a little.

Amanda-jayne21

getting by
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Date Joined Sep 2007
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   Posted 5/19/2008 6:32 PM (GMT -6)   
Hi Destiny Lee,
Welcome to Healing well Depression Forum...

You sure have had it rough with your mom. It doesn't sound like she was or is very nurturing. I am sorry that you went through so much. Hopefully coming here and venting will help you to feel more at peace. I understand what you are going through. I can see why you would like to move away from her. I am sorry for your pain.

If you feel the need to, vent some more. Please be aware of forum rules though as to how much detail you go into. We do have younger people on here that would be subject to reading your posts.

I hope that you can feel peace and comfort and not let your mother's actions affect your life. I know that isn't always easy.

Luv and hugs, Karen
  Moderator-Depression
 
fibromyalgia, Chronic fatigue, depression,allergies


MMMNAVY
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Date Joined Jul 2006
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   Posted 5/21/2008 12:07 PM (GMT -6)   
Buffalogirl,
While I agree with most of what has been said, but to play devil's advocate here what about if she is sick and they just have not found it yet? At that age it is likely. I specialize in an area that deals with terminal cancer patients and most of the women were sent to a psych before they had the tests they needed for cancer. I think addressing the depression is necessary no matter what, but tread very lightly when it come to much. It is very rare in that age group.
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