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My 81 year-old father had a rough year last year. A shattered shoulder reconstruction and open-heart surgery and triple-bypass. He is cleared to become active, but, while he seems depressed, only really becomes his 'old self' when in the company of friends and away from TV. My mother has been, along with some temporary therapists and home nurses (which he no longer requires), his primary caregiver. They bicker at one another far more than before and I fear for my mother's well-being given how reliant he's become upon her. His balance is good, his doctors have put no real limitations on what he can do but he tends to do very, very little. He prefers socializing as an activity (with or without alcohol) but he resists taking walks. He fears falling, which is understandable. He watches tv all day and spends far less time using the computer and writing than he used to. He's always asked for help with technology, but that's primarily because he used it so much before. He rarely asks now. I really just want to find a way to get him ENGAGED in living. Even if that means having him try new things. He practiced law internationally for decades and has had amazing experiences traveling the world for work and pleasure. He retired some years ago, but he kept working with my brother's company for a few years. Now he's clearly lacking that daily spark but it shows when he's socializing. He really needs to get out and walk or work out for his health and all around wellness, but we can't seem to motivate him. He fears falling and spends the bulk of his days sitting around and watching tv and dozing. Now he complains that he doesn't get enough sleep because he awakens at night. We've worked hard to reduce his medication to those that are truly medically necessary and focused a great deal of attention on his health. In fact, most of his sojourns out of the house involve medical appointments.


I can provide more details. We know there is a level of melancholy due to his temporary inability to drive while his shoulder recovery moves at a snails pace. he can drive fine, but he really favors the surgically repaired shoulder so much he's worried about driving. (He's aware he can drive with one hand but doesn't want to do so).


I really am looking for guidance in the area of motivating him to become independent and to get out and do things. He may actually require help in identifying things he likes to do because work took up so much of his life (though that work involved socializing and traveling and telling people what to do and how to solve their problems). He's resolved that change in his life, I believe, but I'm not sure. Retired about 10 years ago.


How can I help get him motivated? If I ask him what he'd like to do on any given day, it's usually going out to lunch and then maybe a movie. rare days with my schedule. It's been 10 months since the shoulder injury and 3 months since his last major surgery (he had 5 during a span of 14 months). He can walk and use both arms, but the injured arm is somewhat limited in range of motion and he's weaker than before. He's attending therapy but they don't push him at all.


I suppose getting him used to driving himself again is a very important step. He's got no cognitive impairment and only exhibited any changes while on heavy meds. He's been off them for months. I don't fear for his driving capabilites at all, except for the fact that he doesn't turn his head around like he could before the shoulder surgery and his vehicle has limited rear visual range.


He's got a perfect driving record, etc.


Again, I really need help either coaxing or motivating him to do the things he wants to do. I think he may need help determining what those things are. I do know that my mother loves him as much as always (they're approaching their 60th Wedding Anniversary) but she's getting a bit of short fuse lately.


What to do, what to do....

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Jeanne asks a very important question, one which I didn't think about. When someone is in pain, for whatever reason, I think the desire to get out, socialize, be active, etc. diminishes drastically. Perhaps it's our bodies' way of healing - cut back on activities and substitute rest.

Even though he does enjoy his friends, it may be too much for him and he doesn't want to admit that getting out takes a physical toll on him.

And he probably deeply senses the limitations of not being able to drive comfortably.

Perhaps it's time to just step back and support him through the healing process before addressing more independence and similar issues.
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Has he been like this for the ten years since he retired, or only since the shattered shoulder?

What did he do when he first retired?
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Just thought of something else. Your father is a man who apparently held positions of authority, of providing counseling and advice. Many attorneys are power attorneys; they move in circles that provide a great deal of exposure to the public or their peers, and derive satisfaction from that role.

That's gone now. And he probably misses it. One doesn't go from that kind of high profile position to being comfortable spending so much time alone, w/o the respect of peers and clients.

If you can figure out a way to create or find a situation in which he gains that kind of self confidence again, I think you'll be well on your way to improving his outlook. Unfortunately, though, I'm not really sure how to do it.

I was thinking the other day of some of the similar situations I was in when I worked and how much I miss them now, and how different it is from being in a position of respect to trudging back and forth to medical facilities, having to develop a tolerance and understanding for medical office staff who aren't particularly good at their jobs, not that that's my whole life now. It's just different, and it's not a power position.
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Since he was an attorney, I wonder if he'd be comfortable working with a pro bono clinic; he'd probably have to brief himself on specific aspects of the law, but it would certainly be an intellectual challenge.

Since he's been a problem solver in the past, think of how you can help him engage in that again. Perhaps he could consider joining and working with SCORE (retired execs who I believe counsel others in business).
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