Dad is irritable and stopped participating in activities he once loved. Is he depressed?

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Q: My father is irritable, and has stopped participating in activities he used to love. Is he depressed?

A: Irritability and loss of interest in activities a person used to enjoy are two symptoms of depression, but there could be other causes for these two problems. The symptoms are a cause for concern.

Encourage your father to see his regular doctor and describe the symptoms. You can tell you father that you are concerned because he doesn't seem to be having much fun lately, and offer your support in going to the doctor with him if he wants, but especially in following up if he doesn't make the appointment.

If Dad wants to go to the doctor by himself, suggest that he briefly write down some of your specific concerns while still on the phone with you. If depression is the reason for these problems, the good news is that it is successfully treated quite often in seniors.


Dr. Mikol Davis is a psychologist specializing in aging issues. He is the author of "Rainbows of Life" and founder of the Aging Parents website. Read his full biography

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4 Comments

So, anyone out there caring for a deaf elder with dementia? Dad has been deaf for over 50 years. He used to real lips rather well and was a pretty good signer. dementia and deteriorating eyesight has impacted both thus, explaining and re-explaining the day's activities and what's going on around him is exhausting. In fairness, dad is lovely and tries so hard-but it's really frustrating. He lives in our guest house and we have no other care for him. The fact that he is becoming less and less active-he hardly walks any more makes the situation even tougher. He is really resistant to anyone coming in as a companion or helper. Even if he did, where does one find a suitable person who can accomodate with sensitivity with all his issues? I fear the need is getting greater. I am an independant contractor but can hardly work because I don't like to leave him alone so much. Any ideas?
Well, I'll start with the easiest. How about new glasses? Could he possibly have cataracts that require only outpatient surgery?

Yes, sounds like you do need a caregiver before your business starts to sink. We've used Home Instead - but there are plenty of others. It took 2-3 trys to find the exact right person, but we finally did.
Sounds to me you might want to take him to the doctor and discuss his challenges that you are observing. I think men have a tendency to deny they have a problem, I know my father-in-law did. Finally, my mother-in-law and the daughters had to go to the doctor and tell him how he acted at home. He fooled the doctor until his family went and spilled the beans on how he really was.