How do I help my Father help himself to get on with his life and stop obsessing over his illnesses and pain?


A year ago this week my dad and I lost mum to cancer. Dad still lives at home by himself at this stage, he is 77. He has Diabetes (Niddm), Severe Lumbar/Cervical Spine Degeneration, Hypercholesterolaemia, Emphysema, Gord and Migraines and depression. He is in a lot of pain most of the time and feeling unwell. The worst thing he can do for himself is to lie around all day in bed which he has been told a thousand times but refuses to believe, so spends all day everyday in bed. The most frustrating thing at this point is that he refuses to do anything at all to help himself and is obsessed with himself to the point it is all he ever talks about to anyone. His doctor has tried to encourage him to get help by talking to someone and getting help to think differently about his situation and his pain, but he refuses to do that as well. It has basically become a situation that everything that can be done for him medically is being done and it is up to him to help himself the rest of the way but he refuses. He won't listen to anyone when trying to help him but expects everyone to listen to him about the same issues over and over again. I know this sounds very unsympathetic from me, but we can't do anymore for him and I am at the end of my tether listening to him say the same things over and over again every day. I don't know how to get him to wake up to himself and help himself so he can have a better life than what he has now.

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Thanks so much guys, I really appreciate everything you have said above.
My dad is on antidepressants and has been for awhile, not sure they have done a lot of good and yes his cognitive function is a lot worse since he has been doing nothing but staying in bed and sleeping for most of the past year.
At the moment his doctor and I are slowly slowly getting him used to the idea of going into care. I feel that this will be best for him in many many ways. We have to wait for an ACAT assessment to be completed so am hoping that happens very soon.
Helpful Answer (2)

Dad is miserable, he could have depression and if so this needs to be treated. It is difficult to loose a spouse, my mom passed 10 years ago, my dad misses her every day. You really can't change your dad but you can change the way you deal with him. Encourage him to see his doctor about depression medication if he's not already on medication. Have the doctor to order physical therapy and attend sessions with him so you can learn what to do. As he moves he will feel better, however all of his pain is not going to go away. When one is miserable and in pain, it is difficult to concentrate on other things. What ever dad is saying respond to it differently than you have in the past. While he is not old, diabetes and the spinal issues can make him miserable. If he is depressed and begins medication, then slowly you will be able to 'take' him by the hand and get him moving. Remember he can't do what he once could and walks slower. Find a support group for people that have lost a spouse. It may be good for him to hear that others, too experience grief and loss and that he is not alone. I brought home a cat for my dad, that made a difference. He has 'someone' to take care of while I'm at work. Little by little I hope you see changes in him. If he won't see a counselor, maybe you should, this could help you learn new ways to 'deal' with dad's issues. Good luck.
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This is tough and nobody prepares in advance with filmstrips or classes.

After my dad died in 1986, mom set her mind to die - at the age of 49. Except she still hasn't and probably is going to outlive all of us.

Mom would say "I don't want to" when she really meant "I don't know how to anymore," "I'm afraid I will fall," and maybe "I can't do and am embarrassed". She was very convincing with "I don't want to".

I finally called her bluff and changed her living arrangements.

Depression is a monster that keeps the person with it chained up in a dungeon. It affects the ability to perceive there is a "better", much less a "better...if" ahead.

It is not impossible there could be some cognitive decline going on due in part or accelerated by your dad's other problems. Cognitive decline can reduce the ability to follow processes, make decisions, and filter language/behaviors. If you lose your ability to follow processes and make decisions, that shoots down your ability to do a lot of tasks that had been very simple before. That's when the person needs assistance with these tasks.

Getting the depression under control is important, but if there is cognitive decline plus physical decline going on, it may not be a magic bullet to get him engaged in life again.

It might help if dad were in an environment where he does not need the initiative to get up & get going, where other people make it happen. This is true for my mom. Left to her own, she would stay in bed, in her bedclothes 24/7/365.
She would take my face off for trying to help her.

We moved her out of her house and into an apartment for a while, then into a nursing home unit, and she now is in a secure dementia unit. It helps A LOT that it's not me making her get up, etc. The aids & nurses are trained on how to do this without hurting her or themselves. They get her fed, meds, and out of bed into the activities for the day, even physical therapy several times a week, bathed, hair fixed, etc. It was a real blessing to me to have this, and to her even if she would never admit it. She is quite a handful for them.

Even now, every day is a balancing act between making her do things for her own good and just letting her be. Sometimes she really is happy just being alone in her room with the lights off. She's always been like that and it's never going to change.

You will find people here who have seen & lived through it all who have great suggestions. If something doesn't work, come back for more suggestions!
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You can't change your dad. All you can do is change the way you react to him which is pretty much what jeannegibbs was saying.

Try not to drive yourself crazy over this and try to accept that your dad doesn't want anyone's help. I know how difficult it is but you have to take care of yourself too. There's nothing more maddening than running around trying to help someone who doesn't want our help.

You love your dad, you're a good daughter, you want what's best for him but that may not be possible. Work on accepting what you can't change and just love your dad unconditionally during this time.
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Well, your dad sure has enough to complain about, doesn't he? Poor guy. But he must be driving you crazy. Poor you.

Of all his problems, the one I'd most like to see addressed is the depression. And you already know that staying in bed isn't helping, and obsessing on his problems isn't doing him any good. Has he ever been on an antidepressant? Is he now? If you can get him to a therapist (which is doctor has already suggested) that would be a great start in breaking the cycle.

But also accept that this is not within your control. You can try to influence him, and I wish you success, but do not mentally take on this responsibility. If you make some progress, yay!, but if not, don't get down on yourself or feel guilty. This is Not Your Fault, and also is Not Under Your Control.

Keep in touch here, and let us know how things progress.
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My father was caught in a netherworld, too. He didn't want to live or die. He spent the last 20 years of his life sitting in a chair by the window. In the last 10 years of his life, he would get up to use the bathroom, get a snack, or go to bed. He avoided doctors and avoided doing anything that would really help him. There was nothing anyone could do. He didn't complain, but would show his pain by pulling his legs up to him to try to ease the pain in them. It was a helpless feeling, watching him slowly wasting away like that. I was here the last two years of his life and realized there was no way I could make him want to live. Sometimes he would say each night he prayed to die. It was upsetting to hear. When someone gives up the will to live, there's little we can do to make them want to live again. The only thing I can think of is if there is a way to give an infusion of purpose to them. I couldn't figure out anything for my father. I know that it is the same for your father, Amanda, with his depression and health problems. He probably feels it is all too much. I wish there was something that would bring him joy. What I wish is that someone could find an antidepressant that helped to pick him up some, so he wouldn't want to stay in bed.
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*resourses* ugh, I obsess about my own typos.
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Hi, I feel for you, my dad is obsessed with how bad he feels and obsessed about everything around him really. The nature of dementia where memory is concerned is a big factor and contributes to their repeated complaints, he doesn't remember telling me all of his problems, he never really will. In this phase of dementia my dad is constantly obsessed about something so I actually introduce new ideas for him to obsess about that I can deal with lol. They do become self centered and self obsessed but I think that they themselves are all they can handle. You don't sound cold, you sound anxious and maybe exhasperated and you sound exactly like I did in the beginning. There were times I wanted to run out the door and never look back and times I wanted to let him know how self centered he was and how frustrated it made me feel. Thankfully I never acted on those impulses, I finally adjusted to him and actually enjoy him for the most part. Opposite of your dad, my dad doesn't want to go to bed and I think he needs to lay down more often and I admit that I need him to lay down sometimes just so I can have a break for gosh sake. But your dads self prescribed bedridden-ness is troubling and all you can do is suggest and encourage him. Pull up your imaginative rescourses because creative ideas are your best bet to get him to change and lord knows, they don't like change. Good luck to you both.
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