My mother has battled depression and low self esteem her whole life. Overall, she did make a decent life for herself and was very career oriented. Since retirement and her illness, her depression never improved and/or got worse. Now she is in a nursing home, in a wheelchair, with a terminal illness.

I wish she would try the activities there or simply eat down the hall down with the other people. Being around other people or stimuli would be great for anyone. When she is lucid, she is really a lovely and bright person to talk to.

My question is: how much am I responsible for her choices? I've tried to kindly make suggestions and offer to go with her to activities/lunch but she refuses. She cries from being lonely and bored yet does not try anything new.

I understand depression is a vicious cycle but this makes me feel helpless. I know I cannot change anyone.

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I worked really hard to get my MIL into a decent NH when she had no money. To our dismay she refused to get out of bed for any reason, not to eat, do social things, go potty. Although she had residual (but not chronic) pain from a broken back in 2009 that she did little to help with her rehab, and she is a large-ish woman (5'7 and still 180 lbs) so getting her out bed was a 2 person task. We tried to engage occupational therapy, physical therapy, incentive charts. Nothing. And yes, the NH cannot force her to do anything.

We recently needed to move her to another NH closer to us. To our amazement they have been able to get her out of bed, eat with the others, do some social stuff. My conclusion is that the other, smaller NH just didn't have enough staff to deal with her.

The depression is another issue. You aren't responsible for her happiness. Clinical depression is an illness and you can't "logic" people out of it or it wouldn't be clinical. I'm assuming that she's already on antidepressants but maybe the NH doc needs to make an adjustment. And yes, she now does have a legit reason for depression. Hang in there!
Helpful Answer (1)
Reply to Geaton777

You are not responsible, in reality, for ANY of your mother's choices, my friend. Not a single one. It may feel that way, but it's a fallacy. Your mother is in charge of her choices, and of her happiness or despair, and like Alva said, she doesn't really have much to be happy about these days, at least in her mind. Like CWillie said, the SNF should probably encourage her to come out of her room for at least one meal a day, but they cannot force a person to do so if they're unwilling.

In order for your mother to find acceptance of her terminal illness, perhaps you can bring her some reading material that will be of help. I myself have found great comfort in reading stories about near death experiences; there is one in particular by a neurosurgeon named Eben Alexander called Proof of Heaven that is excellent. Here is a link if you'd like more info:

Have you gotten hospice involved yet? I do know that hospice has ministers who provide grief counseling and they can be quite helpful to the entire family. The nurses are particularly tuned in to helping patients find acceptance with the transition to the next phase of our eternal life.

Best of luck to you and your dear mom.
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Reply to lealonnie1

I come from a family of introverts, some were even hermits. I learned early on that no one else could make them happy or change the way they navigate through life. It is her life, you are not responsible for her choices. I don't know how often you visit her, but sometimes if too often, it is counterproductive.
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Reply to DollyMe

To me you are putting a burden on your depressed mother. You describe her as suffering from depression for all her life; now she has excellent REASON to be depressed, as she is terminal and awaiting what may be a long, slow, painful slide toward death. What is there for her to be happy about. Is it truly an American thing that we always think we can make others happy even when they have little to be happy about? Why is there not recognition that some things in life are about pain and loss. I understand that you feel helpless, but that is because you ARE helpless. I think that what you need is acceptance. Please do your Mom the honor to just sit with her and listen, to tell her that you are so sorry that there is so much unhappiness, and that you so wish you could make things different. Don't suggest that there is some happy-all-the-time thing out there to make this good. This isn't good. This is the hard stuff. There are, for those who come to some peace, then just that. Some piece. If you need help seeking acceptance please go to find it. You are a kind and decent person; remember that. Only kind and decent people feel this kind of helpless desperation to change despair.
Helpful Answer (2)
Reply to AlvaDeer

What do the people at the NH have to say? To be frank I think that people like your mom who hide out in their rooms make less work for staff because they are out of sight out of mind. I would ask that she be encouraged to eat in the dining room for at least one meal a day and taken to activities that you think she would enjoy. A good caregiver should be able to convince most people to comply if they make the effort.
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Reply to cwillie

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