≡ Menu

Faux Psychologist

I would really love to know what you and your readers make of the below story, which happened only yesterday evening. I will admit, it had me pretty shaken up at the time, and even now still has me baffled as exactly what happened here…

A bit of background:  My husband (an only child) is 20 years older than me (I am 30, he is 49), and for this reason my MIL, “Joan”, is also considerably older than my own parents. To cut a long story short, my MIL (a very sweet old lady, of who I’m very fond) has had early stage Alzheimer’s for some years, which this year was horribly compounded by her being rushed to hospital for major abdominal surgery in January, then, while she was in hospital, a pipe bursting in her home and flooding the place completely out (a fact we ourselves only discovered on bringing MIL home again after three weeks in hospital). My husband and I immediately took her into our own home (a one-bed flat, so we slept on the floor during this time), and I took time off work to care for her (she wouldn’t permit my husband to do any of the awkward stuff like toilet assistance etc, so I had to). After a few weeks, when she was more recovered from the surgery, I managed to get her into a short-term rental apartment deliberately just around the corner from us, while I took on the mountain of insurance bureaucracy and months of repairs involved in restoring her flood-damaged property (she’d never in a month of Sundays have ever been able to do this herself). During the time she was in the short-term let, I went round to keep her company every weekend while my husband was at work, helped her with the shopping, stocked her freezer with home-made food, looked after her administrative affairs, and just tried to keep her spirits up during what she also found a horribly stressful and disorientating time.

I don’t say this to sanctify ourselves or anything – God knows, there were more than a few silent screams on my part at the time (even still now on occasion – dementia is seriously frustrating to deal with at times), but just to put into context the story to come.

Six months on and things are mercifully back to what qualifies as “normal” with Alzheimer’s – my MIL is living back in her own house again (with support from us, she can more or less live independently, albeit with the short-term memory of a goldfish), and we have settled into a nice routine of taking her out for a country pub (we’re in the UK) for dinner twice a week. The conversation always runs on a five-minute loop on these occasions, but she enjoys seeing us and we are more than used by now to repeating ourselves ad nauseam over dinner.

It was on one such pub dinner last night that the ehell incident occurred – we were just leaving the pub after a lovely dinner, when we bumped into an army buddy of my husband’s, “John”, at another table, who my MIL also knows vaguely. MIL is always rather more repetitive after a glass of wine or two, and in her enthusiasm to see John again repeated the same phrase (“it’s been so long since I’ve last seen you!”) about ten times in five minutes. The only thing I said (in a nice way) during this short conversation was, “You saw John at the wedding, “Joan” (we got married 3 months ago), but it didn’t seem to register, so I just smiled at John and left her to it. She also told John several times over that my husband and I “always look after me”, “take me out every week” and that she’d “be totally lost” without us.

It was at this point that I noticed a woman on the next table looking absolute daggers at me (and me specifically), to the extent that even my husband noticed it. I thought that perhaps our conversation was annoying her, as we’d been standing have a catch-up with John and his fellow diners quite close to her table for about five minutes at this stage, so we said our goodbyes and left the pub – only to have dagger lady run out after us across the car park, shouting over and over, “I’m a PSYCHOLOGIST, and you (meaning me) were treating that lady with disrespect!”, and waving her hand in my face (my husband didn’t seem to have incurred similar wrath).

I would like to say that I responded with some dignified etiquette put-down, but I was so shocked and taken aback at the time (I’ve not been in any sort of confrontation like this since school), that in the event I didn’t manage anything more eloquent than, “Who the hell do you think you are? You don’t have the first clue of what we’ve done for this woman over the last year!”, and a few other things that annoying I now can’t quite remember (combination of shock and red wine), to which she just kept repeatedly accusing me of unspecified “disrespect to that lady”. I don’t even know why I felt the need to justify myself to a complete stranger, but I guess she must have hit a sore spot… Having put MIL straight in the car to avoid her overhearing, my husband then intervened (he has a bit of a short fuse when provoked), angrily saying that she was making ignorant assumptions, and that I had nursed his mother back to health this year (referring to the surgery), to which she replied that you can’t nurse someone back from Alzheimer’s (as if we didn’t know!) and did we want her to call the police on us…?!!??

Having discussed this today with my colleagues, the only thing we can come up with that the woman was a) more psycho than psychologist (a true professional would surely not go around berating relatives of the mentally ill, particularly not in said person’s presence…?) or b) perhaps took offense at a shared “affectionate” smile with John at MIL’s constant repetition, or interpreted my reminding my MIL about having seen John at the wedding as patronizing somehow…?

I am certainly not proud of my or my husband’s response to this woman, and I definitely shouldn’t have allowed myself to be drawn into any kind of altercation with her, but I really can’t see I did anything there to warrant such an outburst. And yet, despite being in a pub, the lady did not appear drunk or anything like that, and she must have felt she had some sort of justification to come after us like that, despite that fact that my MIL was actually saying positive things about my husband and I in her presence…. Am I missing something here, or was this woman just barking mad…?

The “happy” ending is that my poor old MIL was totally oblivious to the whole thing, and just accepted our explanation that the woman was some random drunk / crazy person – in fact, she kept repeating the whole journey what a wonderful time she’d had and how she’d loved seeing us!  1001-12

That woman wasn’t a psychologist.  It was a ruse to give her rant more credibility.   Somehow you touched a nerve with her, which isn’t your fault, and she let her inhibitions down in order to vent her displeasure.  Basically she stuck her nose where it does not belong.   Are you sure she wasn’t inebriated?  Not that being drunk excuses anything but I cannot image a normal person acting as she did without a little liquid motormouth grease.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Agania October 2, 2012, 5:19 am

    Sounds like a complete nutter. Consign her to e-hell and forget about her. It’s wonderful what you are doing for your MIL.

  • Cerys October 2, 2012, 5:42 am

    I’m going to conjecture like mad here: was it at all possible that the woman *was* a psychologist – but that she’d recently been given a diagnosis (either her own or a relative’s) of Alzheimer’s herself? Seeing the reality of an Alzheimer’s sufferer might well have made her terrified of her own future, and given her a target to lash out, expresing her own worries.

  • sv October 2, 2012, 5:47 am

    I agree with Admin – the woman was simply saying she was a psychologist to make her rant sound as if it came from a place of authority. As much as this must bother you the best thing is to forget about it. Your husband was right when he told the woman that she had no idea what you had done for his mother over the past year, but you know, and he knows, and even if your mother in law forgets, she knows too. You make her life sweeter by being in it 🙂

  • Bint October 2, 2012, 5:50 am

    Random horrible old nutbag of the type sometimes met in pubs.

    My grandmother had Alzheimer’s. I admire your and your husband’s care of your MIL tremendously; I know how hard it is.

  • Angela October 2, 2012, 5:56 am

    I work with several counseling psychologists and I agree, no way is this woman a real psychology (maybe in her mind!). For one thing, if there is one thing a psychologist can do, they have a much better vocabulary for actions and feelings than shouted accusations of disrespect…to say nothing of the fact that this would be a tremendous violation of the code of ethics. I suspect her title is much shorter and rhymes with witch.
    Sure, it is easy to say now that you shouldn’t have needed to justify yourself but when you’re taken aback like that, clear and logical thinking don’t come that easily. The woman may well have been an alcoholic who is good at concealing motor impairment caused by alcohol but still says and does things that she wouldn’t do if sober.

  • The Elf October 2, 2012, 6:54 am

    Wow. Unless you see elder abuse, it’s not your business!

  • jen a. October 2, 2012, 7:26 am

    That must have been really upsetting for you, OP, especially considering the time you’ve had. I don’t know how I would have dealt with it, but I suspect you did a better job than I would have.

    She might have been drunk, but I suspect that she was bored and wanted to cause a fight.

  • Jenny October 2, 2012, 7:26 am

    My Dad is a doctor specializing in children with disabilities, and there’s no way this woman had any training. No one in their right mind would berate a caretaker for things like that. It’s okay to be exasperated and express it through a small smile or similar. If you always had to pretend and couldn’t release at all, you’d go nuts.

  • CJ October 2, 2012, 7:34 am

    This woman may very well have been a REAL psychologist, but not a CLINICAL psychologist certified to counsel patients. If she were, her actions would have been grounds for losing her license. Keep in mind that just as there are many different types of doctors or engineers, there are many different types of psychologists. Only a small percentage of psychologists counsel patients. The rest of us have other areas of expertise – for example, mine is in how the normal human mind processes information – I know very little about what happens when things go wrong inside, but I am a real psychologist.

  • Sazerac October 2, 2012, 7:45 am

    “Liquid Motormouth Grease” – I love it! Thanks for the terrific new descriptor, Miss Jeanne!

    Probably best never to “engage the crazy”, but in this case I think both OP and her husband were quite justified. Bless you for all you are doing for your MIL, and don’t let what dolts think about it affect you.

  • Shoebox October 2, 2012, 7:52 am

    Yeah, most likely you accidentally tripped a private fear or worry, and alcohol empowered her to act on it. Sad, but you’ve got more than enough on your plate without taking on responsibility for anyone else’s mental health, and were well within your rights to react angrily to such a flagrant intrusion. File it under ‘people are weird’ and move on.

  • clairedelune October 2, 2012, 7:59 am

    The thing I really took away from this post, OP, is that you have been an absolute angel to your MIL, while holding down a job AND planning a wedding, which must make you some kind of superhuman. I’m offended on your behalf by the “psychologist,” but mostly I’m just really impressed by you!

  • Kimberly October 2, 2012, 8:23 am

    I am so sorry for what happened to you. You did nothing wrong. That woman sounds like a crackpot.

    But, I did want to add that I am a caregiver for seniors in their homes in the US and from what I have read in your OP, I do not think your MIL should be living on her own at all in her own home. She might have help from you, but just by going to dinner and the continual lapse in her memory where she has to ask the same questions over and over is worrisome. She really should not be in her home alone, especially at nighttime, when things get the most confusing for seniors like your MIL.

  • acr October 2, 2012, 8:26 am

    I think this woman must be some kind of nut. Who pays such close attention to a stranger’s conversation to realize that a person is repeating themselves indicating some kind of cognitive issue? And also to realize that that person is being humored by their companions?

    Perhaps she’d had too much to drink, was irritated by your party standing so close to her for such a long period, and sought a “legitimate” reason for a confrontation?

  • PM October 2, 2012, 8:33 am

    Even if she is a qualified psychologist, she was completely in the wrong. Please don’t take her seriously. She sounds like a nutter. And believe it or not, this is par for the course when caring for an ill, elderly family member. Someone is always going to think you could be doing it better, differently, with more enthusiasm, etc.

    I dealt with something similar when I was a teenager and was driving my grandmother back and forth to chemotherapy. Grandma had a pretty awesome sense of humor about the wig she was wearing when she lost her hair. The treatment center kept catalogues for wigs and prosthetics the patients might need in the waiting room. One afternoon Grandma and I were waiting for her appointment and were looking through a wig catalogue. I joked around about getting her a selection of wigs so she could have a new look every day, the “Rachel”, the “Liz Taylor”, the “Twiggy”, etc. Grandma laughed about getting a Farrah Fawcett. It was a nice moment in what could have been a really depressing afternoon.

    When Grandma was called into treatment , I was left in the waiting room. The door closed behind Grandma and a woman sitting across the room lit into me about teasing Grandma about the wigs, and how Grandma was only laughing to keep from crying because I was being so mean. The woman basically demanded an apology on my grandmother’s behalf. I stammered out what response I could, that my conversation with my grandmother was none of her business, and if my grandmother had heard her, she would tell her the same. The woman continued to lecture me until the nurse at the front desk told her to back off. She spent the rest of her time in the waiting room glaring at me.

    Maybe the woman was wearing a wig and was sensitive to jokes about them. I don’t know. All I know is that everybody has their own way of coping with the stress of aging and illness, and if you take offense to the coping mechanisms of other people, it’s a waste of precious energy and time.

  • OP October 2, 2012, 8:37 am

    Hi all, OP here!

    Thanks for your messages of support. I can assure you, clairedelune, I am far from an angel – am quite sure angels would not be screaming on the inside for much of the time!! But thanks all the same 🙂

    It’s true that this did strike really a nerve for me – this woman really didn’t have a clue what this year so far as been like (my husband was also made redundant and I was diagnosed with pre-cancerous cervical cells all just a few weeks before our wedding in June, and I was truly on the edge of a breakdown at one point…). Unfortunately, Alzheimers does not come with an instruction book, especially when you start dealing with it when you are only in your twenties yourself…

    Happily though, MIL is now back at home with her beloved cats and on proper medication for the memory loss, I have now been given a clean bill of health, my husband has a new job, and I’ve recently been promoted to a job I really enjoy – so yes, I will take your advice and just put this lady on the “crazy” list and move on! :))

  • PM October 2, 2012, 8:38 am

    PS, my standard response to someone threatening to call the police on me (doesn’t happen often, for the record) for something ridiculous is to say, “Go ahead. I would love to hear the dispatcher’s response.”

    Or as my mother would say, “Go ahead, I know more of them than you do and they like me better.”

  • Twik October 2, 2012, 8:41 am

    I wouldn’t beat yourself up over any etiquette failures – there’s not a lot you can do when dealing with the aggressively unbalanced. A complete stranger castigating you over your treatment of your MIL isn’t something that Emily Post covers – typical books on etiquette start with the assumption that you are dealing with rational people.

    This woman may have been pretending to be a psychologist, or may be a psychologist with anxiety over Alzheimers. My own suspicion is that she is someone who has chosen the role of “Defender Against Elder Abuse Everywhere,” with more zeal than wisdom. I suspect that she may have been watching you for a chance to catch you “distrespecting” your mother-in-law, just so she can play the white knight.

  • AMC October 2, 2012, 9:00 am

    I think Admin is right. It’s unlikely the woman is a professional psychologist. Maybe she’s *going* to a psychologist, or read a news article on psychology once… Regardless, she apparently jumped to some incorrect conclusions based on a snippet of a conversation that wasn’t directed to her anyway.

    I’m sorry you had to deal with an aggressive nutcase on top of everything else your family is going through. Bless you for stepping up and caring for your MIL in her time of need!

  • manybellsdown October 2, 2012, 9:05 am

    I think in this instance “psychologist” = “I took Psych 101 in night class last month”.

    And I will not consign anyone to eHell for telling off a person who is already being an obnoxious donkey. She wants to call the police on you? Great, pull out your phone and tell her you’re calling them yourself because there’s a nutter harassing you in the parking lot. Heck, she didn’t even know that your MIL has Alzheimer’s for a fact – she was a total stranger and was making an ass of herself over a bunch of assumptions.

  • Nissa October 2, 2012, 9:05 am

    My Grandma has Alzheimer’s and is showing similar signs as your MIL. The looped conversations sound very familiar, as well as the lack of short-term memory. I lived with her for 2 years after my Grandpa passed away, and my parents and I took care of most of her affairs like you and your husband do (the responsibility shifted completely over to my parents when I took a job in a different town and moved). We have tried to keep her life as routine and normal as possible. Because she is a quiet woman, it took awhile for most people to realize exactly how serious her Alzheimer’s is. We had several church members think we were being patronizing, when we would “remind” her of things, even in the sweetest tone of voice. The people who were around us when we were with her understood, but those who only spoke to us occasionally in passing didn’t quiet see. We were never attacked so viciously like this, though!

    You are taking care of your MIL wonderfully, and she is blessed to have you close by. I understand the urge to scream in a pillow at times. It breaks my father’s heart (and mine) that his father has died, and his mother is not the mother he grew up with anymore, but he loves her so much and would do anything to protect and take care of her like my Grandpa did. Keep your head up, laugh and find joy in the good or better days!

  • DGS October 2, 2012, 9:14 am

    Huh, fascinating…and the woman may be a nutjob, or she may be someone who had a class or two in psychology, but she certainly is not a psychologist. I am a licensed, board-certified clinical psychologist (Ph.D., one year of predoc internship, one year of post-doc, licensed in two states, have two specialty board certifications), and I never in a million years have gone around in public using my profession as an excuse to berate people publicly, other than one exception – I saw a woman beating a child in a grocery store, and I promptly called the authorities on her. That had more to do with my humanness rather than my profession, although I am a mandated reporter of child abuse, but I digress…There are considerable ethical restrictions placed on us by the American Psychological Association’s Ethics Code, as well as state law under which we are licensed that preclude us from flinging around our profession like a gauntlet.

    I actually very seldom talk in public about what I do for a living, because it tends to invite people with very poor boundaries to tell me their deepest, darkest secrets (e.g. during a plane flight, at a cocktail party, leaning over my table in a restaurant to tell me about their affair, their son’s learning disability, their cousin with schizophrenia, etc.) Normally, I tell strangers when they ask me what I do that I am a college professor (not entirely untrue; I work full-time in college counseling and adjunct in the med. school and the psych. department, as well as having a private practice). Further, when I encounter real boors (a boorish gentleman on a plane flight that was quite intoxicated and did not pick up on my social cues about wanting to be left peacefully alone to read my book), I tell them that I am a funeral director, which effectively shuts off all conversation (no offense to funeral directors; they have a very necessary and respectable job).

    Moreover, I am married to a cardiologist, and my husband never talks in public about what he does, either, because it tends to invite people to ask him to comment on their medications (Lipitor or Toprol or Crestor? Should I continue to have intercourse while on this medication?) or ask him questions outside of his area of specialty that are equally as inappropriate (I have this rash, doc…wanna take a look?). He has learned the hard way to not talk about his career also because he gets some jerk spouting off at him, “Oh, it must be nice to be a doctor and not have to worry about money”. (I’ve also gotten the, “I don’t believe in psychology. People should solve their own problems. It’s all quakery, anyway”, to which I like to answer, “I may not believe in air, but that doesn’t change the fact that I have to breathe it”.

    For those reasons, we are both very judicious about not mentioning our professions in front of strangers – you just never know what you’re going to get, and it is usually not a positive response.

    That being said, you sound like an absolute angel, OP, and kudos to you for taking great care of your MIL. You might consider, as your MIL’s disease progresses, becoming involved in some the caregiver support group initiatives in your hometown, as the Alzheimer’s caregiver community generally tends to be very supportive of one another in the face of this terrible disease. It can alleviate your stress considerably.

  • Sarah Jane October 2, 2012, 9:49 am

    My bet is either she was drunk or she calls herself Dr. Laura.

  • Daisy October 2, 2012, 9:53 am

    That woman might have a degree in psychology; it doesn’t make her a psychologist. You probably should have refused to engage with her, but I wouldn’t lose a bit of sleep over it. I suspect she was so upset because she has a relative with dementia and just bunged her up in a nursing home before the ink was dry on the conservator decree. She was taking her guilt out on you.

    You, on the other hand, are a kind and generous woman and your husband is darn lucky to have you. My stepmother has dementia. It’s a terrible disease and sucks the life out of the caregiver. You’re allowing your MIL to live in dignity with as much independence as possible. Bless you!

  • Lisa October 2, 2012, 9:56 am

    I think you handled this bizarre woman with just the amount of respect she deserved; NONE. Bless you for taking on and succeeding at such a daunting challenge.

  • Just4kicks October 2, 2012, 10:17 am

    My husband and I were in the same situation once while taking his dad out for some air and a treat at our local mall. He too suffered from dementia and due to other health issues, was confined to a wheelchair. FIL wanted to go the mall during some lucid days to see the holiday decorations and enjoy a meal at one of the restaurants there. Anyway….during dinner, we could see he was slipping away mentally as he asked a few times where the heck we were and why did we bring him there! This was something we had gotten used to and began to hurry along dinner and ask for the check before he got too upset. A woman at the next table also began eavesdropping and after several quiet, and then a few more insistent (though not angry or harsh) “No!” ‘s she marched over and yelled at us for being so “horrible and mean ” to dear dad! My husband, God bless him, stood up from the table, looked this woman in the eye and calmly said…”This is my dad, he has dementia, he does NOT have the use of his legs, he is insisting he get out of the wheelchair and ride the escalators over there by HIMSELF. If you are so concerned, Madam, you may wheel him there and watch while he does just that!!!” She turned beet red, threw money on her table and practically ran out of the place.

  • A October 2, 2012, 10:18 am

    Is an incredulous look considered a good etiquette tactic? If so, I think I may have used one in this situation. No words needed…

  • Library Diva October 2, 2012, 10:28 am

    You’ve got to love the random weirdos. Sorry you got accosted by one, OP. Was she a real psychologist? Who knows. One thing that ties all fields of employment together is that they all contain people who are absolute crap at their jobs. She could have very well been one of those. I’d advise you to take her as seriously as I took the guy on the subway platform who offered to marry me and take me to Chuck E. Cheese (for non-Americans, a pizza restaurant aimed at children with a full arcade and an audio-animatronic music show). Sorry for all you’re up against with your MIL. It’s a hard, hard thing for a family to go through. We lost my grandmother to dementia 8 years ago, and it still hurts that she had to go that way.

  • --Lia October 2, 2012, 10:49 am

    There’s nothing quite so irrational as trying to argue rationally with the irrational. I’m glad you didn’t think of a zinger reply for her and sorry your husband tried to explain the situation. The right thing to do is nod and smile while moving quickly away. If you do find a need to interact with her, it might be okay to ask “what do you suggest?” That removes you and your husband from the defensive position and puts it all on her. And you can do this without a verbal attack. Of course, the question is likely to open the door to some ranting lecture which you don’t really want. Bottom line is that caring for people with no short term memory is hard. It helps to have a sense of humor about answering the what time is it question 6x in a row without becoming impatient. (I did this for my mother-in-law and was surprised to find I have something of a talent for it.) It’s one of those things where it’s much easier to correct how other people are doing it than to do it well yourself.

  • Annie October 2, 2012, 10:52 am

    I suppose it’s possible she’s a psychologist. I’m sure the run the gambit, just like the rest of us.

    However, she was definitely drunk and/or crazy–you certainly didn’t lie to your MIL about that.

  • Hemi October 2, 2012, 10:57 am

    I agree with everyone else- just forget about her.

    Both of my grandmothers had Alzheimer’s and it is a very tough thing for families to deal with. This was woman was ignorant and should learn to mind her own business.

  • sillyme October 2, 2012, 10:58 am

    I have to write the OP. My mother suffered *SEVERE* short-term and long-term memory damage and dementia overnight following a stroke. She does the EXACT SAME thing with repetition of the same phrase multiple times in five minutes, not remembering recent events. The most respectful , kindest thing you can do is let it go. Even though your screams may not be silent – please remember that many of us are in the same boat with you and share your daily frustrations. That woman was beyond rude, but was abusive to you as a caregiver. Unfortunately, being a caregiver (as does being a foster mom I’ve learned), make you a target for people who will stigmatize you and your MIL and instantly assume they know more. Frankly, I have no patience for people who offer their arrogant lack of insight. I’d feel perfectly fine telling her if that she was REALLY interested in the patient’s welfare and my own, she could show up one night with some rubber gloves and help change adult diapers. Otherwise, she was only being a problem and cut it out. OP: I wish you strength when you need it, peace where you can find it, and joy whereever it can be found.

  • White Lotus October 2, 2012, 11:31 am

    OP, you are doing just fine. MIL is lucky to have you.
    If not goaded beyond reason, which you were, you could have tried “shocked and appalled look,” coupled with Complete Silence as you hustled yourselves and your MIL out of there. Do not engage the crazy.
    This woman, psychologist or not, is a very bad four letter word for female/male who behaves atrociously, abominably and insanely badly. I have never actually spoken this word or its five-letter counterpart , which is male/female, but either one (some people reverse them or use them interchangeably) fits.

  • Calli Arcale October 2, 2012, 11:43 am

    Wow! It’s a pity you don’t know the woman’s name. You could report her to whatever licensing body exists in the UK for psychologists.

    Unlike Admin, I don’t see any reason to doubt her stated credentials. Sometimes it gives us satisfaction when we’ve been wronged to assume the other person is guilty of claiming false credentials, but there’s really no reason to doubt it. What we can definitely conclude is that if she is a psychologist, she must be a very bad one. They do exist; there was a psychologist here in my home state who recently got in very serious trouble for going way too far in humoring her patients’ delusions — she seemed to think that respecting them to gain their trust meant acting as if all of their delusions were in fact true. Which is a bit of a problem when the delusion is that everyone is out to get you and you need to commit a robbery and then go into hiding. Yeah. She didn’t just lose her license; she got jail time. She also made her patients a lot worse.

    So just because this woman is obviously unprofessional, ignorant, and pretty vile as well, does not mean she isn’t a psychologist. It just means she can’t possibly be a good one.

  • June First October 2, 2012, 11:58 am

    Just4Kicks, great story!

    OP, I hear ya. Our mom has early onset Alzheimer’s and we go through the same short- and long-term memory issues. She doesn’t want people outside the family to know, but sometimes it’s fairly obvious.
    Other times, people think we’re being a little condescending to her. But it is what it is.
    Good luck!

  • Lerah99 October 2, 2012, 12:04 pm

    I find that some people tend to claim titles they don’t actually have just to get their way.

    For example, I used to work in customer service. And I can’t tell you how many people claim to be lawyers after they are told we will not give them a full refund. Considering the contracts they signed and policy pages they received clearly spell out the surrender fees and guidelines, no actual lawyer would think he/she could change the terms of the contract after the fact simply to avoid surrender fees.

    In much the same way, I believe this woman claimed to be a psychologist just to give her crazy rant an air of crediblity.

  • Kirst October 2, 2012, 12:10 pm

    I’m surprised that Kimberley feels she’s qualified to assess whether or not the OP’s mother in law is able to live alone at home on the basis of one story on the internet. I’m an occupational therapist with 20+ years experience, and I wouldn’t make that assessment on the basis of one conversation with the person in question, let alone on the basis of this story.

  • Shalamar October 2, 2012, 12:10 pm

    Totally nutcase. For some reason she was spoiling for a fight, and she chose you as her victim.

    That reminds me of when I was at a department store a few years ago. I stepped backwards without looking and accidentally stepped on a woman’s foot. I was embarrassed and apologized profusely. She started off calmly enough, by saying “Oh, don’t worry about it.” Then she continued, with her voice getting higher and higher until it was a shriek: “I’m used to it by now. EVERYONE steps on me or bumps into me. It’s like I’m INVISIBLE! NO-ONE PAYS ATENTION TO ME!!”

    Well, they were paying plenty of attention to her by that point, believe me, and me as well – everyone in the entire store was staring at us and probably wondering what on earth I’d done to earn such a tirade. I basically did the cowardly thing by backing away and running like the hounds of Hell were after me.

  • Cat Whisperer October 2, 2012, 1:01 pm

    First thing: OP, I feel for you as a caregiver. Taking care of an elderly parent or parent-in-law, particularly one with mental issues of any kind, is like climbing up a steep dangerous mountain where you can’t see where the summit is: it’s fiendish hard work, sometimes you feel like you’re barely holding on and can’t go any farther, and you’re constantly dealing with near-disasters and narrow escapes. And you don’t know when it will end.

    FWIW, having dealt with psychologists and psychiatrists off and on for much of my life because of my father’s mental illness, I can tell you that a psychologist who was experienced in counseling people would never in a million years launch a personal attack on a complete stranger in a public place. If the counselor suspected there was elder abuse going on, she’d be more likely to quietly get information (such as car license plate) so she could report the incident to authorities who could investigate and intervene if necessary. And if she did decide to try to intervene, she would start out with a non-judgemental statement to initiate a conversation, something like “You seem very stressed.”

    I don’t know who or what this woman was, or what triggered her, but I think you need to just let it go. She was a ding-bat who may have meant well (giving her benefit of the doubt here). Maybe she has her own personal issues and something she saw or heard struck her on a sore spot. And maybe she’s just a plain old ordinary crabby person who had consumed just enough alcohol at the pub to make her lose her judgement and inhibitions. Who knows.

    Being a caregiver is hard. When I was taking care of my dad these last few years, sometimes the only thing that kept me on the right side of taking care of him was the knowledge that if I didn’t hang in there and take care of him, I’d be looking at a lifetime of regret that I didn’t do the right thing if something bad happened. That was sometimes all that kept me going.

    Just hang in there and don’t be afraid to get help from counseling, from eldercare services, from anyone who offers you a hand in genuine concern. There is one reward to being a caregiver, and that’s knowing that your conscience will never be troubled by guilty knowledge that you didn’t do the right thing. Hang onto that, because it really is important.

  • goodgrandma October 2, 2012, 1:51 pm

    PM, you brought forth an old memory for me. I was sitting in the waiting room of the radiation department of a cancer clinic with my four year old daughter. Another patient in the waiting room scolded me for bringing such a young child to such a place. I simply smiled – there didn’t seem to be anything else to do. When the technician came out to get my daughter – the patient – for her treatment, the horrified look on the woman’s face was payback for restraint. (For the record, this was 34 years ago, and daughter is just fine now.)

  • Cat October 2, 2012, 1:54 pm

    The best reply I can come up with is, “Madam, I do not know you nor do I wish to make your acquaintance.” and leave.
    You owe no one an explanation of your life or of your family. Do not argue, use obscene language, or try to explain. I do not care if she is a drunk, a troubled woman, or Sigmund Freud. If it’s none of her business, it’s none of her business.

  • Ann October 2, 2012, 2:17 pm

    It is quite possible that the woman is both barking mad and a psychologist. She was also way out of line and rude.

    My advice to OP? Do your very best to learn to ignore these types in person (wide-eyed, disbelieving stare) and laugh at them (privately) afterwards.

    Kudos to you and your husband for giving MIL such good care — and for her for being so accepting of your help and so graciously thankful.

  • Melissa October 2, 2012, 2:34 pm

    Ignore that woman! You know what you’ve done for your mother in law, and despite her limited memory, she knows it too. The opinion of some random idiot doesn’t negate the year of compassion and caring you’ve selflessly given. A real psychologist, or at the least a GOOD psychologist would understand that the apologetic smiles given when your MIL is repeating herself for the umpteenth time isn’t to mock her in any way. My grandmother has dementia, and she frequently repeats the same stories to me. I’ve learned over the last few years to ask new questions and lead the conversation in a different direction each time. I’ve had some pretty great conversations with her, all on the same topic, yet all different because of that.

  • Drawberry October 2, 2012, 3:08 pm

    I don’t think whether or not the woman was a true psychologist or not is really relevant or should have weight on her actions.

    The woman clearly had some kind of knee-jerk reaction to the scenario happening and very well may have had someone close to her (or herself) diagnosed with having Alzheimer’s and simply been distraught over seeing it’s effects first hand. She could have believed that unless you sprinkle shaved gold on her food and offer her nothing but the finest wines and delicacies you’re mistreating her. She could have been shit-faced out of her mind and carried it well. She may have been one of those charming individuals who believe a college course they took 5 years ago makes them an expert. She could have been anything, anyone, with any reasoning but what we know for sure is that she was absolutely out of line and out of her mind!

  • Roslyn October 2, 2012, 3:09 pm

    This story remind me of the line….

    ” I took a class in Psychology in Junior College, so I know what I am talking about…….”

  • Ellen October 2, 2012, 3:22 pm

    I mean no slur upon the many good psychologists out there – some of whom have helped me greatly with various problems and distress of my own.

    But in my youth it seemed that of all the crazy, dysfunctional, self-destructive, chaotic, narcissictic and abusive people I ever met, the craziest ones all wanted to become psychologists. I just prayed they would wash out in training.

  • Otter October 2, 2012, 3:51 pm

    The crazy patron could well have been a psychologist. There are crackpots in that profession too (I know several). You were within rights to ignore her, continue loading MIL and such into car and driving off without a word. Or, use a quote from E-Hell “That is an interesting assumption.”

  • Beth Erickson October 2, 2012, 7:25 pm

    I have been my mother’s caregiver most of my life. Since my dad’s death I have seen her through breast cancer (she’s 15 years clean), a major stroke and a cancer recurrence (she’s still fine!!!). I truly understand the stresses and would like to add my voice to the “kudos to you” chorus-it is not easy by any means.

    That being said, I feel you handled this nosy and rude lady with dignity and class-there is nothing wrong with making sure your loved one is comfortable, even if that does involve telling her multiple times what day it is and the date-my personal record with Mom is 12 times in the course of one dinner!

    Keep on doing what you do-

  • Serena October 2, 2012, 11:01 pm

    My Grandmother and my Dad both died of Alzheimer’s and I was instrumental in their care, especially my Dad’s which toward the end trended toward around the clock. I just wanted to give you, OP, a little bit of support and encouragement and let you know that you are an absolute angel for taking care of your MIL. She’s lucky to have you. Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.

  • Enna October 3, 2012, 4:21 am

    Doesn’t matter if this strange lady was a psychologist or not she was still way out of line. OP you have done a wonderful job looking after your MIL. If the lady wanted to call the police Evil Enna would have said “go ahead, you might get arrested for wasting police time.” As for her saying you can’t nurse someone with dementia “Dementia isn’t cureable but other medical needs require nursing the person back to health, not that it is any of your business”.