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...(not sure what exactly to call it)...

Does anyone have aging parents that repeatedly want to discuss the same issues over and over and over again yet they seemingly either refuse or are terrified to make any attempt to correct or change what they're discussing?

("discussing" could, in some circles, be construed as "complaining", but I'm not going to call it that again....:( )

And if you do have a situation like this, how have you in the past or how do you presently deal with it?

Thanks for any help!:P

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My mom is 73 and does this. I don't always handle it very well, but one thing I have found which works reasonably well is to accept that she doesn't want to, and won't, change and just to listen when she repeats the same old stuff. She talks incessantly!

Where this tends to falter is that my mom wants approval for her opinion (that she is RIGHT) and will pepper her talk with "don't you think so?" If I just agree with her, she takes this as confirmation that her opinion is "right" and she doesn't have to change. If I don't agree, she gets hurt and does the martyr thing. If I'm non-committal she berates me for not giving an opinion. It's all about right/wrong, black/white, for her.

What is very tiring is that she doesn't really believe my bipolar diagnosis and doesn't like me taking meds for it. (She won't even take a headache tablet.) She thinks that exercise and thinking positively is the way to go. When I tell her about research evidence of the biological component, she shuts up and says "oh, ok", but after a few days, she'll say the same thing, like you say.

We all find change hard, but some are more resistant than others...! I have her visit in limited doses and try to put her off when I'm depressed.

Sorry, I haven't helped, just dumped, but I'm frustrated and I'd also love to get some suggestions! I really do love her, she just drives me crazy (and I don't need any help in that department. :( )

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For years and years I listened to my 2 kids tell knock knock jokes, fart jokes, vomit jokes and what not. As parents we just stared at each other in disbelief and for the less offensive stuff, would clap and cheer (even if we'd heard it 50 times). They could seldom find anything, would lose stuff left and right, forget things like chores.......................

I remember the hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of "look at me dad... look at me!" and I would drone inside with the classic-- yeah, yeah, we've seen that hundreds of times.

My hope is that in my grumpy and sticky old age, that my children will pay as much attention to me, and be with me as we were with them. They already make fun of my memory, thinning platinum (or blonde as I tell them) hair and anything else they spot as a sign of aging.

Their turn will come soon enough.

By the way, what I tell the children of elderly parents is that the minute the subject surfaces and hard-headedness sets in, to deliberately turn around and walk away. 10-15 of these and the parent usually catches on or will say something, at which point you say: "We've talked about that, you're stuck, so I'm walking out until you seriously review what your saying." Keep in mind that not all of this is voluntary behavior on their part, so one must be very patient... most elderly people (and most of us for that matter) do the best we can with where we are and who we are in life at that moment-- and this is where you parent is for now.

Edited by David O
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I'm 48 and I complain all the time!

I don't even have kids to give me a reason. :-)

No one's parents are easy; we all have a lifetime of getting on each other's nerves.

On the other hand, at least they're still here, and we also have a lifetime of loving them.

Maybe it's just a matter of perspective.

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Guest ASchwartz

I grew up with my maternal grandparents around all the time. They told the same stories over and again. However, I never tired of listening to those stories. Some were tragic, some were funny, some were poignant and some informed be about life on the Lower East Side of New York during the early 1900's. My grandpa talked about life in a Russian village.

Maybe that is why I became a therapist. I love listening to stories of peoples lives and I never tire of it.


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Thanks everyone for your input.

I really do try and listen all the time, but I was raised being told all the time "if you don't like your situation change it". Well,....

I also have a "problem" in that whenever someone I care about is upset/bent/venting/complaining about a situation I desperately want to help them resolve whatever the problem is. Especially when the conversation is daily about the very same things.

And yes, I do make my share of complaints too. I just try not to have the same ones over and over and over....

In the case of my parent, my hands are completely tied to make any changes or do anything to alleviate the problem situation and, like Luna, if I'm not-committal things tend to get uncomfortable.

Oh, I do love to hear stories of the past too, like Alan, but when the daily conversations are about things that seem to be upsetting to the parent and I'm powerless to do anything about it I tend to get frustrated.

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I really understand your situation. My Dad is 82 and is currently in hospital. When we go in to visit he does have concerns but won't tell the Doctors or Nurses and won't let us tell them either.

However sometimes I over rule him and tell them what is on his mind, and when the situation is resolved he is quite happy.

Elderly people can get very set in their ways, and while we need to respect their wishes, sometime we need to intervene if it is for their greater good.


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Thanks for replies, I am watching this topic now, as I'd love to find ways of dealing with this.

If I've understood it right, I don't think either confuzzed or I, mind the retelling of stories. Like you Allan, I find the stories interesting and really don’t mind that I’ve heard them before. Like you David, I’ve also listened through the toilet humour and... and.. and. Right now music is blaring in the background (not background enough for me, but that's tough) from my oldest's 20th birthday party. More and more I find myself saying “when I was your age…” B) I also hope for tolerance from them when I am old.

But I don’t think that is the issue that confuzzed raised and the problem which I have too. I think the problem is what to do when they complain about a problem, or bring up some matter they are unhappy with, but then when listened to or offered suggestions as to how they might solve it, then refuse to do anything to actually solve the problem. Then the problem is raised time and time again, with a refusal to solve it, just, it seems, wanting to keep the problem and moan about it. I experience it as a refusal to see that perhaps their viewpoint needs adjusting or updating. But it's as if my mom just wants to go round and round in the same problem, comfortable in her loop.

Does that sound right, confuzzed? and does that distinguish it from the reminiscing and retelling of their lives and times, Allan, David, malign? I love the stories. It's the hard-headedness of refusing to do anything about the problems they complain about so repeatedly, that is the frustrating problem. Unfortunately I can't be endlessly patient, I have issues to deal with too. :)

And it isn't about not loving them. My mom did her best with what she knew at the time and I know and understand that very well, from having done the same with my own children - and I love her for all she did.

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Yes, Luna, you hit it right on the head.

It's the stubborn refusal to enact changes that might help the situation, or at the very least, make it different if even for a time. But what I get told is its not "complaining" its "having a conversation". OK. So hearing "I don't like the way" or "they just aren't" or "why can't they" isn't a complaint when it comes repeatedly? Maybe that's where my confusion on this is - I thought for the most part conversations tend to be intellectually stimulating, enjoyable, humorous and even spirited. Seems all the conversations I've had lately are about the dislike for a situation that is completely controllable with no intention of making changes yet asking constantly "what should I do?" Sorry for going off a bit there.

Like you, Luna, I know that my mom did the best she could in raising me and my siblings with the knowledge she had. She and I have had conversations about the mental and sometimes physical abuse she went through from childhood all the way through young adulthood at the hands of her mother. It wasn't until she finally stopped talking to her own mother (when I was very young) that it stopped. Yes, parents do what they know, but I know for myself I learned to try my best not treat my children the way I was and am still treated at times.

I love her anyway, but it sure does get frustrating. And I don't want to just stop talking to her as I feel that would be abandoning her.

And I too find myself telling my 21 and 19 year old sons "when I was your age" and "I used to" and "we never did that". I think that's just a parent thing anyway.

Happy Birthday to your oldest!!!:) At least you're at the party - my oldest wouldn't come near home the weekend he turned 21!!

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What a lovely topic, it made me laugh.... I just lost my 100 year old grandma a few months back. She was the love of my life, my soul mate. I miss he so. I miss her simplicity, her quirks and complaints, her innocence, her stories that I had heard 100 times. We return to childhood almost when we live to be that old. Sure there is the wisdom of having lived a long time, the understanding that all things pass, but our life goes back to being very small. Every little things is a worry. In my family we used to laugh endlessly about her obsessions, how she would agonize for over a year about the fact that someone had stolen her bra (which no one had), or how she would become inscensed if her bed was badly made, which it always was. She was incredibly cute!!! And she was strong. She would scold us if we were out of line or not being good to ourselves. She lived her faith, in every moment of her life. She was a visual representation of another era, a time gone by. What was important in life was different then. Even young they understood that it took hard work and determination, that things did not come easy. They helped each other a lot, lived together in extended families to make ends meet. They were more tolerant. I would not be who I am today had she not been there, and now I sort of don't know how to be without her. Things are too complex without her. I am becoming cynical, the world has less hope. I miss her, I miss her a lot...

My advice I guess is try to see what they can do, what they do give you, how much they love you, because when they are gone that is what you miss. Absorb all you can of their advice and wisdom, so that when they are not there anymore you can remember and it can help you live better.

Edited by Symora
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