How do you help a depressed elder when they lash out?


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

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I know that this is an old article--My 90 year old parents lash out all the time. My Mom wishes God would take her. They don't get along with each other or anyone else. Depression show it self as anger.
This article would have been more helpful to me if there had been more discussion about what to do when your parent lashes out by constantly complaining, feeling sorry for themselves, and admits they are probably depressed but who refuses to see a doctor or therapist about the depression and will not engage in any way with other elder adults going through similar circumstances. I guess this is where I read the articles about detaching in love.
My mothers is currently living in a ALF and has been talking about a few other ladies in a mean way, complaining about them. I'm so afraid that they will ask her to leave, don't have a plan B. She has been angry and anxious to the point that I don't like being around her. She is on an anti-depressant med. but maybe something needs to be added to that. I think my sisters are calling her and getting her all upset regarding her living situation, she can't afford to live by herself and I couldn't take her living with me full time. I don't think my sisters want her to live with them either, sad I know. Any similiar stories out there?