Can I help Mom get her life back together?

6 answers | Last updated: Nov 05, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

My dad died in 2006 at the age of 45 to cirrhosis of the liver. I am 25 and have been trying to take care of my mom who has no external family, except for myself and my brother, who is 18 years old. We were a very nuclear family and did everything together, she and my dad had been married 19 years and together for 26. She has her ups and downs but still cries a lot and is always feeling sorry for herself. I don't know how to deal with her sorrows most of the time. She was a housewife and is now going back to school for a teaching degree. I constantly try to motivate her, but I get so drained after a period of time with her lack of budgeting, constant complaints and other errors. How can I help her with her situation? I am in college and have my own problems, but I am constantly worrying about her. Am I not being understanding enough? I really don't know what to do anymore. Any help would be appreciated.


Expert Answers

Mikol Davis, PhD has worked in community hospitals with geriatric patients suffering from dementia, depression, and other psychiatric problems. He has a doctorate in Psychology from the University of San Francisco and has been in private practice in Marin County, California. Davis co-founded AgingParents.com with his wife, Carolyn Rosenblatt.

You are truly honoring you father by stepping up and helping your parent through grief. Please give yourself permission to stop questiong yourself and making yourself feel guilty. When a parent is forced to cope with the loss of their spouse they must choose to either survive or not. The grieving process ususally takes about one year for most health people. However the fact that you mom continues to suffer problems with her mood and lack of motivation, along with problems making good decisions, may in fact be symptomatic of Depression. As you know depression is a medical condition that may have been present before your father died. Additionally, depression could be a product of the long term stress caused by your mothers grieving over the last three years. Here is the bottom line, you can't cure depression with love and you personal attention! In fact you are at risk of clearly becoming sick yourself as a caregiver. Therefore encourage mom to call her family doctor the next time you are with her to schedule a physical exam. It is important to rule out other medical conditions that can have similar symptoms like depression. Once the appoinment has been set take your time to go along to see the doctor. Make sure the doctor is told all of the problems mom is having. Now the good news! If mom is dealing with depression we have very effective medications that are quick acting to help eliminate the symptoms. No medication with provide purpose in mom's life, that is up to her! A referral to a psychologist can additional help mom get unstuck in her life and may serve you in your quest to better understand what you can and can not to support mom. If you need addional resources check out the many free articles, podcasts, and videos, we have at AgingParents.com. I hope this helps you move forward a bit down the road of life. You are a very good person to honor the challenges of you AgingParent.


Community Answers

A fellow caregiver answered...

The daughter has 2 choices. 1. Just walk away & never look back (after all, she doesn't need to know the situation getting worse if she doesn't want to be stuck with her. or...2. Pull herself up by the bootstraps & act like the woman her MOTHER raised her to be. I'm very sorry young lady but you have to choose, either be in this with her for the long haul or run as fast as you can the other way. My bet is on the latter. No offense but I don't think you would make a good caregiver. There is a song that you & your Mother should listen to. I's an old gospel song made famous by Connie Smith, called One Day at a Time. I lost my husband in 2000 Age 44, to a brain aneurysm. This Christmas Eve will be 14 years & 140,000 gallons of tears. Memorial Day of 2009 I lost my 30 yr old son to a big fall. My Mother passed Halloween of 2000 & my Father on March 7, 2005 but his funeral was on the 11th (my birthday). I cry so many tears a day that they all run together. At that point all I know is that I'm crying over a loved one. I have a wonderful Psychiatrist who has had me on, sometimes they ease the pain for a short time. I've been to more GriefShare sessions than I can count. One last thing, people really do die of a broken heart. Right now she needs your love & support, not your "get over it".


Alzheimer's symptoms answered...

I agree with Mr. Mikol Davis' answer. I think the mother needs professional help, and I think this should be given quickly. Either the Psychologist or the Psychiatrist should help the daughter, as well, in order for her to know how to help her mother and how to deal with her own emotions because this is not so easy. I find the "Anonymous caregiver's" answer contradictory: At first, she gives the daughter two choices (harsh choices in my opinion);after, she gives a good suggestion, saying the mother needs her daughter's love & support. I agree with the latter.


Jfrymsw answered...

anon caregiver: (I see that this letter is about a year old, but I felt the need to respond in case others facing a similar situation may read this.) You mentioned that your mother is going back to school for a teaching degree. Are there counseling services at the college she's attending (or is it all online?) If so, they might be able to help provide support and take some of the burden off you. They might have resources for people to learn budgeting, etc., unless as was suggested that your mom is struggling with depression, and that's what contributes to her lack of motivation, problems with budgeting, etc. I think the response that you have "two choices" was harsh and highly judgmental. You have been there for your mother since 2006, meaning you've been there for your mom.....supporting her....since you were SEVENTEEN years old! (Along with helping care for a brother who would have been TEN years old at that time!) That shows NO indication to me that you're someone who would "just walk away and never look back." You're an amazing young woman to be able to do all this while attending college and managing your own life!!!!!! You shouldn't have to bear the stress of this situation alone, with your younger brother. You are a daughter, not a spouse, or parent, or counselor. There are typically grief support services available, often free ones through local hospice programs. This is NOT a TWO choice, e.g. all or nothing, situation or resolution!


Bstir answered...

I am in your shoes at this very moment. I came to this sight for answers. As always, I just find the same common sense answers that have created my massive confusion to begin with. After reading this Its very clear that I need suck up looking for an "easy fix". Shes my mom. Ive spent the last 33 years learning her by loving her unconditionally. I feel like I am going to have reopen doors I shut years ago due to my own fears & insecurities if I truly want to help her. I have to come back to life in my heart and remember who we were/are as a family. it was always just us for the most part. I believe what were missing is somewhere lost down memory lane. I truly believe remembering many details in my past Ill see where my strengths and weaknesses come from. Because so many came from her just maybe I can help remind her... just how strong she is by helping her relearn things shes taught me. Maybe and epiphany here and there will trigger a miracle.


A fellow caregiver answered...

Mikol Davis!!...get another career..something you are qualified to comment on....Acurately!!!!...Have you ever been in this situation?...obviously not!!..there is NO time limit to grief and you CANNOT get over the loss of someone you have shared everything with for 30 years...in one year!!!...This is not black and white!!!.... My mum lost my dad 20 years ago, and it took 2 years alone to get over the shock....i really think you are in the wrong proffession...no Phd will come close to life experiences, and your answer is laughable!!!