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My dad is 81 years old and every 6 months or, so he does something that creates an uproar in the family. Are these symptoms of a mental illness or disorder? 1) He secretly sells things that he thinks are surplus in the house - both his own and otherwise, e.g. new shirts set-aside for him, hot and cold steel bottles I recently bought for my parents. When I asked why, he says - just because they were lying around unnecessarily. 2) He collects the recyclables from parks, roadsides, etc. A few years ago our neighbors told us they have seen my dad pick up empty bottles from all over. He used to collect them in the garage secretly. When asked, why - he said - just like that. I can sell to the local recycler. 3) For several years he was managing the finances for our domestic help. A few years ago he stole 10,000 rupees from her bank account through a blank signed check he had from her. She found out about that and proved it. When asked, why - he said - I was overcome with greed. 4) Most recent, is that he has been collecting the free print advertisements that are stuffed in the mailboxes. He goes to everybody's mailboxes in the neighborhood and collects them without telling the owners. One of our neighbors pointed it out to us. When asked, why - he said, they are useless for most people and I can use the black bank side as scrap paper. Each time we ask him "are you short of money", he says no. My parents have never splurged but they do not cut corners on basics and when it comes to giving us gifts. None of us(kids) can make sense of his behavior and he is becoming an increasing nuscience for us and my mom.

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Does he have a regular " family doctlr" he sees? I'd get him looked at by that person and explain my concerns about his behavior and ask for a recommendation for further treatment by a specialist, and whether a psychiatrist or neurologist would be the right avenue to pursue.

The big issue that I see in his treatment is that he's not following the recommended medication regimen. If he doesn't take the prescribed meds, there won't be success in treatment. How can mom get him to take his meds?
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Blannie, thank you for your thought. I doubt that he has OCD. He does not hoard things. And his blood sugar is okay. India does not gerontologists - it is a specialization that has not been practiced commonly. If somebody would let know what is the right dr to take him to - Psychiatrist or Neurologist?
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Some of what your dad is doing sounds like OCD, obsessive-compulsive disorder. That's something that is treatable with medication. Does he hoard the things he collects? If he eventually sells the scrap, then I don't see that as a big problem. If he just hoards it, that's an issue. But stealing from someone and taking things out of others' mailboxes is a problem and certainly socially unacceptable. And he doesn't seem to recognize or understand that it's against social norms.

I agree with just getting him a good physical to start. Is his blood sugar OK? That's something else I would check out. People with elevated blood sugars can act in odd ways. He may have the beginning of some type of dementia with his unusual behaviors, but I'd start with a good physical exam to rule out anything physical. If that is OK, I'd try to get him to a gerontologist or neurologist if you can, to check his mental state.
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So, dementia medication (zoloft, prozac and other SSRIs) are not effective if they are not taken consistently. They are not pills that you take to relieve symptoms "in the moment", i.e, I'm feeling depressed, I need to take this pill.

They are medications that work systemically to alter chemistry over the long term. They take several weeks to kick in to have good effect.

Can dad understand that concept? Many elders can't . They say " I feel fine, why would I take a pill?". This applies for high blood pressure medication, depression, anxiety and many other conditions. The idea is to "get ahead" of the symptoms and thus make them better.

If you can get him to a psychiatrist in India, that is probably a great idea. Psychiatry needs to be nestled with in the culture; we in the US feel that parents should be able to have planned for themselves; in many Asian cultures, caring for one's parents is seen as a badge of honor.

Check back and let us know how this is going. We care!
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Thank you for responding. I am so lost and so need guidance. It would be hard to get my Dad for medical treatment to US for health insurance reasons. But I can take him to a psychiatrist in India. My dad had depression in the past and was on depression medication. He keeps stopping and restarting it whenever he likes without telling anyone. My mom lives with my dad and takes care of him. I have seen the documentary "On Being Mortal" but not read the book.
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Is there any way to get your dad, in his country, to see a qualified MD, maybe a psychiatrist, to interview dad and assess whether this is mental illness or dementia, or both?

Has dad had mental issues all his life?

Have you read Atul Gawande's On Being Mortal? Which I highly recommend to EVERYONE, but his heritage is from the subcontinent and he clearly seems to understand the culture.

Who is caring for/living with your father?
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