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Need help with Mom

My mom has been gradually declining and avoiding social contact, even with family. She is 75 years old and in good physical health. Her mood is generally positive, although my dad says she can become quite negative at times. Medically, she has struggled with anxiety 40+ years (monitored by a general physician) and has developed Type II diabetes and hypertension from poor diet and inactivity.

My mom's sleep and eating patterns are erratic. She stays up until 5-7a in the morning before going to bed and will sleep during the day getting up at 2p or even as late as 4p. She will eat her breakfast, lunch and dinner over the course of 5 hours, sometimes less. She showers maybe once a week and wears nothing but nightgowns. The only time she dresses and fixes her hair is to go to doctor's appointments. When she's there, she laughs and jokes with the doctor and acts as if nothing is wrong.

My mom is a devout Catholic and has attended mass every Sunday, yet she has stopped going to church for the last 2-3 years (which is unusual for her). When asked to go out or attend a family event, my mom makes excuse after excuse why she can't go. When you come up with a solution to one problem, she'll come up with another excuse. She claims she is constantly fatigued and "feels sick." When asked to tell that to her doctor, she acts as if there is nothing he could do to help, so why bother. My dad and I have been to her doctor three times (privately) to talk about our concerns, but her doctor acts as if he doesn't believe us because every time he sees her she looks great and is happy and laughing. We asked for his intervention with possibly a referral to a psychologist or a different anxiety medicine, but he has done neither.

I've asked my mom if she is depressed and would she like to talk with someone. Her response is always "no." "I'm happy," she says. Me: "Why don't you get dressed and get out of the house?" Her: "I'm comfortable in my nightgown and I'm happy at home."

In October of this year, my mom and dad will be married 50 years. They have had a good life together and I can truly say I had a happy childhood. My mom used to make supper, clean the house, cut the lawn and do gardening. Today she has no hobbies or activities other than lying in bed, eating or watching late night TV. My mom is the youngest in a large family. Almost all of her siblings have developed some type of dementia in later years. My dad and I are worried for my mom's mental and physical health. Her diabetes is out of control (she eats during the night when she is up) and the fact that she is isolating herself and not practicing basic hygiene is very troubling. It is especially stressful for my dad to watch her decline because he lives with her. My dad and I think she is depressed, but my mom thinks nothing is wrong and adamantly refuses to talk with a psychologist. The only person she will leave the house for is her general physician and he has not helped.

Please, please, what can my dad and I do to help her?
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547368 tn?1440541785
Hi Toni,

A tardy Welcome to our Senior Health Community. Please excuse my tardy response, I've had some major medical issues the last few weeks and haven't been as active here as I am normally - again sorry!

Sadly your mom's story is not all that uncommon. I've been in your shoes and have seen many other seniors go through very similar situations.

First you must get your mom a GREAT medical work-up. Have all her lab values checked including the not so usual ones like Vitamin and Mineral levels. If there is a Geriatrician - even if it means a few hour drive make an appointment and get her there. Geriatrics or geriatric medicine is a specialty that focuses on health care of elderly people. It aims to promote health by preventing and treating diseases and disabilities in older adults. They are physicians who specializes in the care of seniors. They know what to look for - what medications may work well together or may be fighting one another. I have seen them do miraculous things in seniors that were not even functioning.

Your mom is very blessed to have your love and concern - and your father is also. He needs you as much, maybe more than your mom, for your kindness and support.

Try not to be judgmental with your mom or give orders - remember mom feels like she should still be guiding you. The change of positions is very difficult for her - as well as you.

No on can understand the feeling of loss some of our seniors feel until it happens to them. I'm willing to bet in addition to your mom losing her parents that she has also lost many close friend and relatives. That's very difficult no matter your age or how long it's been since you lost a loved one.

I know your mom is fortunate to still have her mate but to some degree your mom relieved on those deceased friends and relatives for friendship and companionship. They cared if she got new shoes and where she got them. Indeed I bet she had some shopping buddies - or garage sale friends. Shopping or whatever it was that use to occupy her time and that she enjoyed may also be physically difficult for her.

Going to Mass was also a part of those friendships and comradely. She may believe that she can worship in the privacy of her own home and her God listens - so she feels no need to attend Mass.

Your mom may no longer feel comfortable talking to her current physician - again I encourage you to have her seen by someone else. If you can't find a Geriatrician (I think you can) - find mom an older female medical provider. If you're a senior at 55 than I am one - I am no longer comfortable with most male physicians. Most, not all - female medical providers just seem to "get it" better with how a female feels - or what they are experiencing. There are great male docs, don't get me wrong - but give me a compassionate female doc over the best male.

I could go on but I think you get the picture. Again your parents are so fortunate and blessed to have you - someone that truly cares. They will need you even more as the years progress. Hug them every chance you can and never miss an opportunity ti tell them how much you love them and how wonderful they made your childhood.

Please keep in touch.

Best of Luck to You,
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Avatar universal
Thank you for your response. I appreciate all the kind words and suggestions.

Unfortunately, my mom has struggled with social anxiety all her life so she never developed a network of friends. She also doesn't drive, so the times she tried to make contacts she would in turn get snide remarks or be excluded from invites because she did not drive. (I know. Rude but true. I actually witnessed a group of neighbors talking about how they went somewhere together and said to my Mom: "If you would learn to drive, you could go too!" Again, anxiety has prevented her from learning.)

Part of the problem is my mom doesn't like taking medicine and doesn't trust doctors. If I said I was going to set up an appointment with a different doctor, she just wouldn't go. Literally wouldn't get dressed or leave the house. (As I mention before, she feels like there's nothing wrong with her yet tells me she feels tired all the time.) Her GP sees her at least 3-4 times a year which includes a very thorough blood work up. I've heard from my dad that the doctor says she's very healthy. Her BP, calcium levels, etc. have always been better than average. I think this is more of a mental health issue than senior health issue.

Again, thanks for responding to my post. Please take care and I wish you all the best.
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Avatar universal
Forgot to include... I found an online community of doctors and heard back from a mental health specialist. I will discuss the doctor's suggestions with my dad the next time we get together.
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547368 tn?1440541785
I am glad you were able to find some help from a mental health specialist. I hope that will be successful.

Sadly it's we (children) that are unhappy with the situation we see a parent or parents living. They are "happy" with their life. We're not happy with it - why? It's because we believe there is so much more to life that living in your nightgown, watching tv and having their days and nights a bit confused.  

Yes I speak from experience. My mom was the same. In the last few years getting her to bathe was like pulling teeth - a woman who was once immaculately dressed, with dangling earrings and as she would say, "The whole nine yards."  She slept in the day and was awake half the nite. She was a recluse  -  and happy (according to her) to be one.

So I wish you the very best. Please stop in and let us know how it's going.

Best of Luck,
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