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This has been going on for 11 years. She is otherwise in good health. Has seen a psychiatrist once, hated it, won't go back. On depression, arthritis, cholesterol, sleeping meds. Suffers from constipation, takes suppositories, then has diarrhea. Sleeps through the night with help of meds, but complains constantly about how tired she is and doses off all day long. During the six months she is not depressed she seems fine, showing renewed interest in life. Right now she has no interest in ANYTHING. Any ideas? help?

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I relate to your mother, lakelady333. I have a diagnosis of major depressive disorder and also sleep apnea and delayed sleep phase disorder (and a few assorted other medical problems). I'm 71 and I drive so I am more independent than your mother.

You are kind to recognize your mother's medical problems and want to help. From my own experience I have a slightly different approach to suggest. Start with the sleep problems. It is very hard to cope with depression (or most anything else) if you are sleep deprived.

Who can help with sleep issues? A sleep specialist. A sleep clinic will often start with an overnight study to help diagnose the specific issues, and then will have suggestions ranging from devices to medications to sleep hygiene. Getting restful sleep can make a HUGE difference in our ability to cope with whatever else we deal with. So, start with a sleep specialist.

Melatonin is not a sleeping pill. Our bodies produce it in response to our internal circadian rhythm, as a signal that it will soon be time to sleep. Taking a supplement is useful when the body's internal clock is disrupted, such as with "jet lag" or a sleep disorder. But it is a supplement, not a drug, so it has not had to go through the rigorous testing drugs do and there is not a lot of research on how it works best and in what amounts. A sleep specialist will know all about what research there has been and have very specific suggestions about when to take it and how much. Picking up a bottle at the drugstore may not do the trick.

I wonder if your mother's cyclical depression might be related to circadian rhythm problems. Do you live at a latitude where hours of daylight are considerably longer in the summer months? Does your mother sleep well in the winter (or at least better)?

Besides encouraging your mother to seek medical care, one thing you can do to help (and it sounds like your brother is doing -- bless his heart!) is to encourage her to avoid isolation. When I've been stuck in the house a few days I find that even a trip to Target to buy toilet paper is an upper! We don't need a daily party but we do need frequent interaction. Hopefully it isn't always about our health. Privacy is all well and good, but isolation is bad for folks with depressive tendencies.

If you are too tired to make a phone call and depressed on top of tired it is very hard to take the initiative to call a friend. It is easier to go back to bed than to get dressed for an outing. That is where loving outsiders can help.
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Keep on trying. Never give up.

A large dose of Omega 3 can help perk her up, but ask the doc how much.
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Get her on antidepressants ASAP. I have SAD and it sucks! I walk 2 miles a day and that helps- I live in southern cal. And moving inland from the coast made a huge difference. You can also try light machines in addition to meds. It's a real thing ( sad) and it is really hard to get through the gloomy days without a plan.
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I have a loved one that sounds very similar, but is not as old. I think that once a senior gets to a certain age, they are very unlikely to change. It sounds like your mom is on meds and has tried therapy. That's something. My loved one won't even do that. You could discuss changing her meds with her doctor to see if that might help. Some people have very good success with that.

Some people have this thing about them, call it a disorder or just a personality trait that they like being miserable or pretending to be miserable, tired, sick, etc. Some of the ailments may be real, but some are brought on by psychological issues. See Conversion Disorder.

Trying to help them feel better or be happy is pretty much a lost cause. With my loved one, I know that she is capable, because she does it when she wants to or if certain people are around. Other times, it's the same story. So, I ignore it and try to only respond to positive things, like she read a book, went for a walk, cooked good meal, etc. Other family members eye roll, but that's not very helpful.

I have accepted that she's likely to be that way for the rest of her life, so I try not fret about it. You can only do so much. Plus, she's 87 years old. I would think it's her right to not engage in activities if she chooses. I suppose she's got a right to be tired and just rest. lol
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Thanks for the suggestion pamstegma, never considered that.
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Do bloodwork during both good and bad periods and see what levels reverse.
Maybe her cholesterol is going too low in summer, or maybe certain drugs make her sensitive to light. Look at diet-- Nana would get ill in summer due to changes in diet. Get the whole picture.
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Her arthritis isn't debilitating, she still cooks and gets around well when she's NOT in her funk period. She lives with her son, actually he lives with her in her home. He takes her anywhere she wants to go, as she no longer drives. When she's asked if she wants to go for a drive, or a walk, or see a movie, etc., she replies that she's too tired. She's just lost interest in life.
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Lakelady, that's interesting....I'm not familiar with that kind of seasonal depression.

I'm wondering though if she was an outdoors woman, someone who really enjoyed the spring and summer but can no longer participate in activities she formerly did? I could understand that if she loved those seasons but can't do what she used to that it could provoke a depression of sorts.

I really hate to see people overmedicated; in my experience most doctors just see meds as the first line of treatment. I've fought that for years and still do.

There are also herbal teas which induce sleepiness, but I don't know whether any of them would react with some of the meds she's on.

Where is her arthritis? If it's in her hands, the warm wax therapy might help. My aunt had hand arthritis; she was a commercial gardener and needed to retain flexibility. Her doctor prescribed a machine which warms wax, then hands are inserted into the machine.

When she first told me about this I couldn't help thinking of Vincent Price and that horror movie of waxed people. But after my aunt demonstrated the machine, I could see how helpful it was for her.

You might want to do some research also on natural diets; there are some foods which can aggravate arthritis. I also experimented years ago and found that salmon oil supplements eased my knee arthritis; it hasn't bothered me for years now.

Perhaps if you can gradually address each of the various medical issues, it might make her feel better and enough to help combat the depression (I'm a firm believer in natural remedies as opposed to medicines, except in drastic circumstances.)

Does your mother live with you or alone? Can you plan various short term activities that will take her outside - if she's living alone with no transportation, she might feel more depressed because, if not for her medical conditions, her spring and summer life would be better. Is there any way you can address and change that, if that perception does exist?
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I wish I had any good news for you. My mother has suffered from depression her whole adult life. She's now 85 with multiple health problems and dealing with my father who has dementia. She has tried counseling and theraphy but didn't take to it at all. She's been on every antidepressant known to man with little effect.

Depression is a hard nut to crack for anyone but it seems much harder for the elderly. Let's face it, they have legitimate reasons to be depressed.

I've changed my attitude with my mom the last couple of years. I used to try and consol her, things aren't that bad, tomorrow will be better, look at all the good things in your life, I feel so bad for you............No more. I'm not mean to her but I just ignore the woe is me stuff for the most part and divert her on to something else. It doesn't solve the problem but I think she sometimes is throwing out the bait.

I think Garden's suggestion about SAD is interesting. Maybe on to something there.......
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I know of SAD, but her depression starts in the spring, lasts through summer, and she returns to "normal" in the fall and through winter. I will research the cholesterol med she's on and see if it is a statin. I totally agree, she's on way too many meds, and now there's talk of uping her depression med, OY! I'll ask about melatonin. Thanks very much.
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Research SAD - Seasonal Affective Disorder. In IL and other northern states, it's not unusual for people to become depressed during the winter months when we're generally spending more time indoors, there's less sun, and the feeling of cabin fever can develop.

Research whatever cholesterol med she's taking - if it's one of the statins, research the side effects - these are seriously dangerous meds.

Also try to regulate her constipation issues with better food planning and less meds - sounds like she's just on too many meds.

Ask her doctors if she can use melatonin instead of a sleeping pill.
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