Can I help Mom get her life back together?

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 Answer

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.