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raum's avatar

Why would my sister lie about my mom’s symptoms?

Asked by raum (13208points) January 1st, 2024 from iPhone

We were in the ER. The doctor asked if my mother had sores in her mouth. I said I didn’t remember her mentioning that. So I asked my mom to confirm. She said she did not have sores in her throat.

My sister says no, that she’s going to answer for her. And I said why would you answer for her if she’s right there? And there’s no language barrier between my mother and the doctor. And my sister says that my mom does have sores in her throat. I said what?! She literally just said that she doesn’t. The doctor looked inside and she didn’t.

I’m still baffled by this exchange. Munchausen by proxy? What the hell was that about?

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29 Answers

raum's avatar

I asked someone else and they had an obvious suggestion, just ask her. But the thing is, I don’t think she’d give me a truthful answer.

Zaku's avatar

I can’t think of a likely reason. I can imagine a few things, but only by randomly inventing context I have no idea about.

I would ask her from a neutral position, not from the idea that she lied, since you don’t know what she may be thinking.

For example:
* Maybe your sister knew or thought she knew that your mom had had sores there, in the past, and maybe she assumed your mom was confused or for some reason lying.
* Maybe your sister was stressed out and confused.
* Maybe your sister had a strong intuition that your mom wasn’t being truthful, for some reason.
* Maybe your sister thought she had seen a sore recently, but was mistaken.
* Maybe your sister thought it was important to get the doctor to check.

I would ask her, to see what she says, but I definitely would try to be neutral and friendly about it.

“Hey, I’m just curious why you said you thought mom had sores there?”

raum's avatar

I appreciate these suggestions! Didn’t need a definitive answer. More, I just needed some possibilities that weren’t entirely mind-boggling.

We were all pretty sleep-deprived. Five hour wait for ER during the holidays.

Not sure how neutral I could manage right now though. Other issues to juggle. :/

filmfann's avatar

My Dad was worried after his heart surgery when he saw blood in his stool. He mentioned it to my Mom, and told her not to say anything to the doctor. She told me, and I thought it was terrible to not tell the doctor, so I called his office just before my father’s appointment and told him.
It turned out to be nothing, but my Dad was surprised the doctor knew about it.

JLeslie's avatar

My guess is your sister was afraid your mom would be dismissed or not fully tested unless her symptoms seemed extreme enough. Or, maybe she thought that the symptom would more likely get your mom a prescription for antibiotics. Strep throat has the sores, but so does some other illnesses that are viral.

A bad sore throat is going around here, but I haven’t asked people enough questions to know if it is due to strep or just a cold or flu. Strep has a persistent very sore throat for more than three days and usually a fever. Colds and flu the severe soreness usually subsides after 48 hours.

Did they give her antibiotics? What was the diagnosis?

flutherother's avatar

There is the puzzle of why your sister said your mother had throat sores when she didn’t and there is the puzzle of why the doctor asked if she had mouth sores when his patient was there right in front of him. There is also the puzzle of why the doctor even mentioned mouth sores.

Maybe your sister exaggerated your mother’s symptoms in a previous discussion with the doctor over the phone just to ensure she would be seen by a doctor and she didn’t want to back down later.

canidmajor's avatar

I think @Dutchess_III may be right. My sister has done similar things, I believe to establish her authority and control. It tended to cause more problems, aa she was never correct, and steps had to be taken to establish the truth.

I hope your mom’s OK.

seawulf575's avatar

Might be that your mom had been complaining of sores in the mouth or throat recently to your sister. Sometimes patients don’t tell the whole story for a variety of reasons. Your sister could have just been ratting mom out for her own good.

More strange (to me) in this story is why the doctor asked at all. Looking would have taken less time and probably resolved the whole thing with less confusion. And in the end it was required anyway.

LadyMarissa's avatar

Maybe sis was just wanting the doc to look for himself as Mom had said something different earlier to her that caused her to believe Mom was holding back info from the doc.

raum's avatar

Appreciate all of the food for thought!

The doctor had already looked in her mouth to see if she had mouth sores. (She does.)

When he asked if she had sores in her throat, it was like he was slightly surprised. Like he hadn’t seen any when he looked at the mouth sores.

My sister always thinks she knows better than everyone. I was talking to my niece and she said that my sister has also disagreed about her symptoms too. The doctor was very confused and they had to ask to talk to my niece without my sister in the room.

My sister also was disagreeing with the doctors diagnosis. I’m all about self-advocating. But the things she was suggesting didn’t align with what was happening.

I’d lean towards @Dutchess_III and @canidmajor. She likes to be the one in control who knows all of the answers.

Though my sister is a medical professional and I would think she would understand that relating incorrect symptoms would affect the differential diagnosis.

Also my mom is very honest and an over-sharer. I can understand trying to guess whether my dad was telling the truth or not. But not my mom. She will share every minuscule detail. :P

raum's avatar

@JLeslie Autoimmune response to common virus. My mom has had 22 lymph nodes removed due to breast cancer. So her autoimmune system is out of whack. Prescribed an antiviral, medicated mouth rinse and topical cream.

raum's avatar

Oh shoot. I just realized that the original description is mistyped.

The doctor asked if she had sores in her throat. He had already checked for the sores in her mouth that she had told him about. He asked after my sister said that my mom had sores in her throat. I interjected that she had never mentioned sores in her throat. Because we had had a conversation about her difficulty with eating. I had asked if it hurt when she swallowed and she said no. Just in her mouth.

JLeslie's avatar

Oh, your correction makes the question very different. Mouth sores vs throat sores.

smudges's avatar

Though my sister is a medical professional

And there it is, imo. She’s a medical professional, therefore knows about all things medical.

raum's avatar

@smudges She is a pharmacist with a lapsed license who works in an office job. She’s not an MD.

Though she thinks she knows about all things medical!

raum's avatar

@JLeslie Yes, sores in her throat could change diagnosis. Not just severity.

KNOWITALL's avatar

Even if she was a doctor or medical POA, the patient should always speak for themselves. That being said if a caregiver needs to interject due to mental confusion or something to advocate for said patient, it sounds like either a control issue or extreme worry. I’d probably say something, like if mom can speak for herself, please allow her that courtesy.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I went through this same thing with my very controlling sister and our mom. She made things sound much worse than they were. Then she would sweep in and save the day.

raum's avatar

@KNOWITALL Absolutely agree. Mom was lucid and there were no language barriers.

raum's avatar

@Dutchess_III My sister also likes to be the one in control with all of the answers. I would just think that, as a medical professional, she would understand that giving incorrect symptoms could legitimately make it worse. :/

Dutchess_III's avatar

My sister is a clueless software engineer! She didn’t know anything I didn’t know.

Poseidon's avatar

Of course I don’t know what the situation is between you, your sister and your mom but there may be situations where your mom cannot answer for herself so her sister, or indeed yourself may feel it necessary to speak for her.

I have a similar situation with my wife. When she sees a doctor for an ailment she simply will not explain the symptoms she is suffering from and I have to step in and give an accurate description for my wife.

Another reason why you or your sister may feel the need to explain something about your mother’s condition to the doctor is is your mom has a mental issue such as dementia.

However from your question I get the impression that your mother is perfectly capable of explaining the problem she has to the doctor.

I certainly do not consider that just because your sister said her mother had sores in her throat when her mother did not may be suffering from Munchhausen by Proxy Syndrome.

Your sister may have genuinely thought her mom may have had sores but her mother did not mention it..

Munchausen syndrome by proxy is a mental health disorder in which a caregiver, most often a mother, routinely makes up fake symptoms or causes real symptoms in a child or adult victim to make it appear that the victim has a true physical or mental health issue.

In the case of your sister possibly making a mistake about sores in your mothers throat does not add up to Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy.

Added to this the only person who is qualified to make a Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy diagnosis is a qualified psychiatrist or psychologist.

raum's avatar

@Poseidon I wasn’t actually serious about the Munchausen by Proxy. I do not think my sister is secretly poisoning my mother!

That was more of a joke.
(Apparently not a very good one!)

smudges's avatar

^^ I got it.

Pandora's avatar

I agree with @JLeslie If you tell a doctor that you feel like you have sores in your throat, some will side on precaution and test to make sure it isn’t something else. But because insurance wants to know you found something before ordering tests they often will not. You may be starting to get something that should’ve been tested but you are sent home and told it’s probably a cold. I remember visiting one time with my mom who complained of severe belly pain and light stools. The doctor said she’s been checked recently for other stuff and that she is fine. She was not in too much pain that day but the night before she was bent over in pain. When the doctor asked how she was doing she answered passively. She was in her 80,s. Probably something she ate. I was with her and told the doctor I was concerned it was more than gas or something she ate. Turned out to be gallstones. I could see by the look on his face. The excuse of, well she’s old so parts are going to hurt and I don’t want to bother to find out what the real cause is.

Pandora's avatar

I wanted to add, that a lot of old people feel like a bother to their loved ones and even the doctors and will often suffer in silence because they feel. My mom in her 50’s would’ve demanded that the doctor find what is her problem. In her 90s now, she is quiet and doesn’t speak up at the doctor’s office. She’s like a shy child now and downplays her ailments.

raum's avatar

@Pandora I can definitely understand needing to advocate for someone who is inclined to downplay their symptoms or be too embarrassed to share. That’s totally my dad! My mom isn’t like that at all. Hence my confusion!

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