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Mom's Personality Has Totally Changed



"My 88-year-old mother was always the sweetest lady to us kids, and just about everyone she encountered when we were growing up. If my father became upset with us, she was always the peacemaker. Mom was definitely the “go to” mom in the neighborhood for comfort and cookies.

My father died about two years ago, so now Mom lives alone in a single family home with few neighbors around.

Something has happened over the last few years. It’s as though she was snatched and replaced by someone else’s mother. Mom is now mean and actually a bit combative at times. The other day when I stopped by, she told me to leave if I didn’t have anything nice to say. It really puzzled me because I was only offering to wash her kitchen floor for her. I was quite hurt, and didn’t know how to respond, so I made a hasty departure. My brother has had similar experiences lately.

We don’t know what to make of this new personality. She was never this way in the past. Is this just how old people get? What do we do next?"



I’m sorry to hear that you’re experiencing such a dramatic change in your mother’s behavior. When someone’s disposition changes that rapidly, you do have a legitimate cause for concern. That type of personality change is not normal.

I wouldn’t attribute your mother’s change to simple aging, as aging shouldn’t affect personality. As her children, you know your mother best and indeed, something is amiss.

I would look in two directions for an explanation: physiological and psychological.

Let’s start with physiological: 

  • Is your mother in frequent or constant pain? Many adults her age live with chronic health conditions and pain. Joints, back and the gastrointestinal are just a few areas that come to mind.
  • Urinary tract infections are a frequent cause of behavior changes in the elderly.
  • Is your mother ill and afraid to do something about it? Is your mother receiving routine medical care?
  • Is she taking the medications she requires? It’s rare to find an 88 year old isn’t  on some medications.
  • How is her hearing? Is she staying current with audiology appointments and adjustments if needed?
  • Is your mother’s vision being monitored?
  • How is your mother’s memory? Is she leaving burners on? Does she get lost? Can she remember family members? A change in behavior is not uncommon in the early stages of dementia.

And now the psychological:

  • You mentioned that your father passed recently. How is your mother handling the isolation and her grief? Has she been supported in her grief journey?
  • Is something troubling your mother that is coming out in ways you cannot understand?

As you can see, there are assuredly some very real reasons for the changes you see in your mother. Intervention is strongly recommended. It’s time to accompany mom to her physician visits. 

Go ahead and ask her, on a calm day, how she’s feeling. If she says, “fine,” don’t settle for that answer. We both know she is not fine. Get close and get involved. She needs you now just like you once needed her. It may not be easy at first. Gently persist in supporting a search for the answer.


About this Post

Written By

Mary Haynor

RN / CEO - Emeritus

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