Q: My elderly mom has been very depressed, saying that she just wanted to die. I try to help her, but she lashes out and can be so mean. How do I handle this?
A: Depression is often presented to others not as sadness and apathy, but as anger or rage. Seniors who are depressed have lost purpose in their lives and often lash out at others, mostly at their loved ones.
When anyone expresses their desire to die, it is most important to NOT take this comment lightly. If you are caring for your Mom, please get her seen by her physician right away. This is the type of responsibility to NOT delegate the others!
Go to the appointment with your Mom and if she asks that you not attend the doctor's examination, make sure to speak with the doctor yourself. You will be most effective if you prepare your observations of her mood and behavior.
Depression in the elderly is often not treated due to age discrimination.
Many new medications can directly increase the quality of an elders life. Positive change is often quite dramatic when elders are properly treated with anti-depressant medications sometimes referred as "S.S.R.I's". S.S.R.I's are anti-depression medications which fist came on the market with Prozac. Theses medications have been safely used for many years in treating seniors.
Most importantly the lashing out and anger can disappear very quickly after two to four weeks on medication. After the evaluation by her family doctor, it is also appropriate for you to ask for a referral to a psychologist or psychiatrist. This may be in order to better get to the real root of her unhappiness. Medications often work best when talk therapy is used in addition to the medication. Don't wait to do what is right for Mom.
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