Elderly Histrionic Mother


My elderly parents live in another state, my father has cancer that will be terminal. I am going out more frequently to make sure they’re taking care of themselves, and to handle the chores. My mother has a histrionic personality that is very alienating. I have many avoidant/schizoid traits. Without my father in her life, she will have increased difficulties in relating to the world. It’s difficult for me to interact with her, but I do want to make sure she can function after Dad’s death. Is there some reference work you might recommend that might help me bridge this gulf of personalities? I know it will only be a temporary bridge, but I feel I need to convince her to move into a retirement community where she won’t fall prey to scammers who with a little sweet talk can easily take advantage of someone with her personality. Thank you.

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People with histrionic personalities crave attention, and are willing to act in flamboyant, showy and manipulative ways to secure that attention. Their general approach is to be emotional rather than rational, superficial rather than deep, and passive-aggressive rather than direct. They tend to be very concerned with appearances. Because of this, they are often foolishly willing to extend trust to people who merely appear to be trustworthy, rather than actually being so. If your mother fits this description, I think you have some reason to be concerned for her welfare. Even so, I wouldn’t focus exclusively on the personality issues or on how gullible she may be. Ccon men and women are skillful at defrauding a range of personality types. She is not alone in her vulnerability, and to the extent she is vulnerable, merely living in a retirement home will not protect her too well. The deeper issue is how to best provide for her future needs.

I would suggest that you contact an eldercare planning professional, perhaps a consulting social worker, who can help you to assess your mother’s needs and figure out what will be best for her with regard to her care needs, financial health and safety, and living situation. Other various professionals may need to be called in to assist with the planning, and of course, this should all be done as a family, with your mother and father both participating. Your father may be dying, but he isn’t dead yet. Mental Help Net has a detailed article on eldercare planning that you can read to get started with the process.


Your mother’s personality issues will likely need to be taken into account as you attempt to ‘sell’ various plan approaches. One thing about histrionic types is that they are succeptable to flattery. You can perhaps use this to advantage as you develop your care plan. Keep in mind also, that despite her personality issues, your mother is an adult and you will not be able to control what she will do until and unless she requires conservatorization. There is a degree of peace to be had in that truth, I think, if you look for it. At some point you will have done everything you could reasonably do to help ensure her welfare, and the rest will be out of your hands and in her own.

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