Depressed Elderly Parents

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Clinically Depressed Elderly Mom

Sept 2012

My 79 year old mom moved from the east coast to Oakland over a year ago to help me with my twin babes and to live w/ us. Needless to say it has not been an easy transition for any of us. She was a great help w/the babes when they were infants & continues to help but she doesn't feel needed as much anymore now that they are toddlers and they are in daycare b/c my husband & I both work FT. She has some health issues and doctors have changed her meds which caused her to switch her anti-depressant med. She was used to being very active back home as she had meaningful volunteer work that she did at least 5 days/week. But she was lonely & always talked about moving to CA to be nearer to my brother & I. And to be honest I thought the timing was great as she was getting older I didn't think she would be able to drive and get around much longer in the east coast snowy winters and be able to climb stairs to her rental apartment. I thought the babes would be the impetus to get her here and that she could help out with them and as they got older I just assumed she would get settled & look for volunteer opportunities and social outlets. But that has not happened. Instead she stays in the house all day and sleeps most of the day away. She also tried to take the written test to get a CA license but she has failed twice and only has one chance left and now she tells me that even if she gets her license she probably doesn't have the confidence to get to know the area. I suggest buses/public transportation/some sort of elder transportation services etc. but she says no. She pretty much says no to everything I say. She blames me for this entire situation. She says I don't have meaningful conversations with her, that I rarely offer to take her on outings, that we leave her for hours alone. I do invite her almost everywhere I go but to be honest I have limited time with working and having two toddlers that most of my free time is spent running errands, grocery shopping and taking the babes places. We are also just very different people - she an extrovert who needs lots of social interaction/talking & i am an introvert and like my quiet time alone. I am at a total loss as to what I should do to try to help her. I have suggested therapy many times, have looked up volunteer opportunities and have offered to drive her around to look at them, have suggested joining the Y for their senior talk series, have suggested senior centers...but the answer is always no or ''i'm not strong enough.'' She tells me that she is literally fading away and dying. I don't even know what to say to her anymore.I am looking for any words of wisdom, advice, name it. I am not sure how much more I can take. Anon

Boy, I could really relate to your post. My Mom was a decade younger than yours and moved from her home to get away from winter weather and be closer to us in the Bay Area. The move took a huge toll on her that we had not expected. She was confused, couldn't navigate around on foot, public transit or driving. She wouldn't go to the Senior Center that was two doors away. She would always 'pull herself together' for doctors and social workers, so there was no help from the so-called experts. I kept hoping she would snap out it (denial) and get with the program that she had made the move to improve her life. But, within a few months she had to move to assisted living and each year after that was a stair-step down into dementia. It was a 12- year decline and she died last year, almost a complete vegetable.

That's the short version, and I'll spare you the rest. I hope that a decade later you might have better, more informed resources. Besides your Mom's doctor, I would start, perhaps, with Ashby Village ( I would also see if a consultation with a geriatric social worker might be of help. Perhaps your kids' day care could use a volunteer for some hours/week? I look forward to hearing what others have to say about this topic and I hope you will be spared what I had to deal with. Sad daughter

I would suggest a starting point of slowly transitioning your mother off the anti-depressant medication and see what kind of person is really there. Once clear of those and a normal serotonin level is re-established you will then be able to assess the situation correctly. She may actually find her own way once she is clear headed. Until that is done you are stuck dealing with someone ''under the influence''. anon

My dad hasn't been able to recover from his wife's death

May 2009

My 76 year old father's wife died of cancer about 2 years ago. Before her death he was an extremely active person, curious and adventurous. He had many hobbies that he actively pursued and was a real role model to me for retirement. Since his wife's death, my dad has not been able to get back to who he used to be. He has tried various anti- depressants but they have made him feel awful. He moved to to a retirement community in Arizona to be near an his ex-wife who has been a very good friend. However the two of them get together in the evening and drink cocktails. This morning I called him around 10am and he had obviously been drinking. I have heard him sound ''high'' over the phone before, though this is the first time so early in the day. He has an appointment with a psychiatrist in May to try and find an anti- depressant that will work for him. I have encourage him to do some talk therapy which he says he will look into. But I am really worried that he is slipping away from heart break and ambivalence. I don't know what I can do to help him, especially from California.

Is it possible that your dad was drinking when he was trying the anti-depressants? Any significant amount of alcohol can mask or un-do the positive effects of antidepressant medication, not to mention significantly depressing the central nervous system more than the underlying depression already has. It's not really a fair medication trial if the person is drinking or using marijuana etc. I guess my main point is to encourage him to be really honest with the psychiatrist about his drinking so an accurate assessment can be had.

Another point is that along with drinking and bereavement is very commonly malnutrition, which can affect he mood to a very significant degree. It is not always something we think of but when folks are sad and drinking, they don't usually feed themselves very well.

Then - what about helping him find a bereavement group? I have worked with many elders, widows and widowers, who have not really been ''therapy people'' per se but who have really benefitted from a bereavement group. I would recommend this in addition to individual therapy. Best of luck to you and your dad.

My 83-year-old father is increasingly depressed

Jan 2004

I'm looking for advice for my 83-year-old father who lives alone, is in poor health and is, I'm quite sure, increasingly depressed. My questions are: does anyone know a geriatric psychiatrist (he's in Marin but I could bring him over here) and, perhaps more importantly, have ideas about how to get a very resistant elderly person to consider going? Also, anyone have experience with East Bay (or Marin) retirement communities? Or, if he were to move to a house over here, social opportunities for someone that age? thank you anon on dad's behalf

We just recently went through this same issue, except that my father-in-law lives next door, yet still felt isolated and alone. I think mostly because he is on his second or third round of friends' deaths. I can't imagine how difficult that must be. He has been seeing a geriatric counselor, who I would be happy to recommend, both father and son are happy with him. At any rate, he recently chose to move into an independent living home, (just this past weekend). We are not sure if it's the right thing, but he wanted to give it a try. They offer many great activities on a daily basis, and there are many other people with whom to socialize, and yet, privacy can be had as well. We have extensively checked out the local places, and I'd be happy to debrief you on our experiences if you like. Feel free to contact me. It is a difficult thing, watching our parents age, I think particularly in our society. Good luck, Kelly

I don't know if money is an issue for you but I hired a home health aide for my father because he was living alone with serious health issues. The aide was fairly successful in getting him to go to the local Senior Center and go shopping so he wouldn't stay at home day after day. She was also a companion for him when he did choose to stay home. I found her through the Jewish Family and Children's Services on Shattuck in Berkeley. (You don't have to be Jewish to use it.) There are also classes for seniors at the local YMCA where he could make friends. My father used to exercise with other heart patients at the Berkeley Y and they would breakfast together on a regular basis. You may also want to ! talk to your father's doctor about anti-depressants and see if that is an option. I know this is difficult this to deal with, but there are a number of resources for seniors. Good luck. Nancy

There are some great retirement residences in teh East Bay. My mom is at one.Lake Park Retirement Residence, neaer Lake Merritt. There is also St. Paul's Towers near Lake Merritt...the Piedmont House, the Claremont House... I'll speak for Lake Park, since I know it...they have all levels of care, but you have to move in being able to live independantly. There are LOTS of activities adn friendly people around.

I know it's hard to get our elderly parents to budge.It took me and my brother 3 years to get my mom to move out of her wonderful house in northern NH, even when she couldn't take care of it anymore.

She's also now on Zoloff and her spirits have improved greatly. How to get your dad to go see a medical professional? NOt sure how to answer that....we TOLD my mom that she was going to take ! a medicine to help her feel happier. She said OK. Good luck.

If you want to talk more about LakePark, please e-mail me. By the way, they invite people to come and stay there for 2 days so they can get a sense of what it would be like to live there. Good luck. June '