DEAR ABBY: "Frustrated Son in Nashville" wrote about his complaining mother making unreasonable demands of him and the family.
"Frustrated Son" and his family have made an honest effort to make his mother feel loved and cared for. However, he may not realize that she could still be depressed and grieving for her husband.
Depression in the elderly can exhibit itself in many ways. As an R.N., I have seen similar behavior in seniors who were experiencing depression, grief and other emotional/mental health problems. The mother in that letter may need an assessment by a physician or behavioral health clinic that specializes in geriatric psychiatry.
Treatment should include a general physical and diagnostic evaluation to determine any physical or mental cause for her behavior and emotions, in addition to medication and/or psychotherapy (counseling). A good program should have all three components available if necessary. -- A FRIEND IN TEXAS
DEAR FRIEND: You're right. Those are the correct steps to follow when someone exhibits a sudden change in personality or unusual behavior. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: My heart goes out to "Frustrated Son in Nashville," as he travels the journey of caregiver to his aging mother. It is a journey shared by more and more of us as older family members live longer.
Having been a caregiver for three aging family members, I have not forgotten the demands -- or the frustration -- those years presented.
"Frustrated's" mother may be growing too dependent on him and other family members. He must try to take time for himself and his own family. Reducing his mother's dependence will not be easy, as it appears to be an established pattern. However, if her son does not change this pattern now, it will only get worse.
Instead of the family calling her twice a day, perhaps SHE should make the call to them at a specific time each day -- to let them know she's all right, or any other message. This seems minor, but it represents giving her back responsibility for her own affairs to the degree that she can manage them. She also has to learn that demanding, "Call me right back!" should be reserved for true emergencies.
If there is a caregiver support group in her son's city, he should consider attending it. Caregivers share common concerns and can gain insight from one another. -- ARIZONA CAREGIVER
DEAR CAREGIVER: According to the National Family Caregivers Association, more than 60 percent of family caregivers say they have suffered depression. To paraphrase the Caregiver's Bill of Rights:
Caregivers have the right to take care of themselves and know it's not selfish to do so; to enlist the care of others in the caregiving, even over the objection of the sick family member; to maintain facets of their own lives that do not include the person being cared for; to have feelings of anger or sadness and express them occasionally; to refuse to be manipulated consciously or unconsciously; to be treated with consideration, affection, acceptance and be forgiven for shortcomings; to take pride in their own individuality and what they are accomplishing; and to be applauded for the courage it takes to meet the needs of the person being cared for.
The National Family Caregivers Association can be contacted by calling toll-free 1-800-896-3650 or on the Internet at www.nfcacares.org.