How do I deal with my grandma's guilt, anxiety, and depression?


My 88 year old grandma has been having feelings of guilt over things that happened to her daughter (my birth mother) before I was born. (i'm 38) Also, she has anxiety over environmental issues that she hears about on the news. She also gets very depressed because most of our family is dead or not close enough to see or hear from often. We live together, and need to clear out the garage, but when she starts going through old boxes and storage items, it brings back lots of memories for her. She needs someone to talk to her, and take her out more often so she won't just sit at home and read, watch tv, or dwell on her health problems, but I have very limited driving skills, and I'm not social enough for her. We don't have any help, are very isolated at home, and I am depressed and burned out. I don't want to put her on any more medication that could have side effects, because she doesn't sleep well. What should I do?

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Hi MusicLover,
I hope for both of you that you can break some of that physical isolation. Starting with your last statement, I wouldn't negate the fact that medication could help your grandmother. She may not need more than more socialization, but she could likely use a checkup with a geriatrician (if possible), or at least a general physician who knows and respects the aging process. Then, if she has issues that medication could help, that approach can be discussed. She could even sleep better with the right medication.

Not knowing where you live, it's hard to give you ideas about socialization for her, but senior centers often offer very nice times for elders. A social outlet can change (at least enhance) lives. It would be good if you could hone your driving skills. If you live near a very large city, there could be outlets for your grandma in the suburbs which wouldn't be as challenging for your Grandma.

Even if you aren't very social (I understand this, myself, as I'm no social butterfly), everyone needs some social contacts. If you like to read you could join Friends of the Library. If you like to knit or have another hobby, there are groups you can join. Or, you can just renew an old friendship from the past. But you and your grandmother shouldn't be totally dependent on each other for company. If you each had other social outlets you'd have more to talk about when you're together.

I hope that you will look outside of your home with Grandma for more help. You began by asking a question here on the forum. Please keep writing and let us know how you are doing. Next, I'd advise you to have grandma get a good physical. Then, look into social outlets for both of you.

Good luck to you. It's no wonder you get depressed and burned out. I'd like to hear that you've seen a doctor, as well.
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musiclover, guilt is the gift that keeps on giving I'm afraid. It's one thing to actually make things right between someone because of something a person did wrong, but quite another just digging up bones to just dig. If she has valid guilt, then let her talk about it to you. But if not, it's time to distract her when she starts going there. Instead of talking about the BAD things that happened in the past, what about focusing on the GOOD things instead? Her whole life couldn't have been one big mistake right? So there has to be good and fun things to talk about instead. Also, what about Skype for her to talk to people who can't visit? Are you set up on your computer for that? I talk to a friend of mine who lives in Alaska once a week via Skype, which is fun. Put some music on while you're going thru boxes, maybe something in her age bracket that she can sing to. I don't know, you both need some activities outside the home if you ask me. What about your church? If you don't have one, find one and make some friends. Time to take the focus off the bad, and onto the good.
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