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I have a friend whose mother (only in her 70's) has reached the point where she doesn't recognize her. We work in another country, but she goes home regularly. Her mother also no longer recognized her sister who sees her regularly. When she returns from a trip home she is absolutely crippled with depression. She feels guilt for not being there (and her sister helps by berating her for working abroad, but she has no other option right now). She is a lovely, kind person. Can you please give me some advice on how best to help her? She literally will disappear for over a week when she comes back (can't even get out of bed to come to work). It is terrible to see her suffering so horribly. Thank you

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As someone that lives far from my parent that has dementia I went through years of crushing depression as I was the emotional punching bag for family members that are there. I didn't pull out of it until I created boundaries on calls that were just nonstop complaining and visits home that were confrontational. I'm currently not accepting direct calls from one family member that is always toxic and I get news indirectly. I had no choice after I spent two months sick from stress after being harassed to drop everything and return to my parents home state. It's hard to do but if you can convince her to not willingly absorb the negativity all the time it will be best for her. Also, help her find some form of nurturing self care to ease anxiety...massage, meditation...art..or just short day trips out to take a mental break. Your a good friend.
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As someone that lives far from my parent that has dementia I went through years of crushing depression as I was the emotional punching bag for family members that are there. I didn't pull out of it until I created boundaries on calls that were just nonstop complaining and visits home that were confrontational. I'm currently not accepting direct calls from family members that are toxic and gets news indirectly. I had no choice after a spent two months sick from stress. It's hard to do but if you can convince her to not willingly absorb all the negativity it will be best for her.
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Dear Countrymouse - thank you so verty much for your response. You have helped me feel that at least I am "doing no harm". I have shared your response with my friend, and it seems pretty spot on to me, but again, I don't have any experience with this and I am truly grateful to you for so kindly sharing your wisdom which I am sure came at a painful cost. I appreciate you being a ministering angel.
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It is very sad that your friend's mother is slowly dying from this cruel disease and no longer recognises either of her daughters.

Your friend's sister is sad and angry, and is using your friend as an emotional punchbag. But as you tell us that the sister visits the mother regularly, we know at least that the sister is not the primary caregiver: so although the sister may feel that she is carrying the greater burden, there isn't anything practical that your friend should be doing that she isn't doing.

"Grief is the price we pay for love." Your friend's suffering in itself demonstrates that she is a good, loving daughter.

What kind of company do you work for? Are you able to be your friend's advocate at work, and perhaps arrange some kind of pastoral support for her there? Are they understanding about her absences? Is she able to function when she is at work?

It is very difficult to help someone who has a real problem for which there is no real help. Being there, inviting but not forcing her to talk, these are probably things you're already doing. But don't underestimate how important they are.

I wonder if you're wondering whether the regular trips home are a good idea, or if your friend might do better to avoid them. It's something to discuss, but whether or not your friend visits her mother she is still going to feel the loss either way.

Certainly, though, you can help her guard against the sister's accusations by reminding her that lashing out is not the same as being right. You can understand the sister's feelings, that is, without agreeing with what she says.

Poor lady. But she is lucky to have you on her side.
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