What do I do when my mother seems to have lost the will to live?

A fellow caregiver asked...

My mother's friends are dead. Her husband is dead. All she does is sit in her chair when she is awake.

Expert Answer

Barbara Repa, a Caring.com senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of Your Rights in the Workplace (Nolo), now in its 10th edition.

It must be very difficult for you to watch your mother in such a sad and listless state. But it is not unusual for older folks who feel lonely and isolated to act this way.

Have you made attempts to reengage her in life with some people or activities likely to interest her, even at the risk of being rejected? Perhaps propose a project knitting hats for the homeless, arrange visits with neighbors, adopt a new pet, or listen to a few books on tape? Anything to get her mind off her own solitariness and directed to others.

You might also go with her on her next trip to the doctor -- or make an appointment for her soon so that she can be assessed for depression. Many older people are experiencing grand successes with antidepressants, talk therapy, or some combination of the two as they adjust to the many changes that hit later in life.