Mom doesn't leave the bedroom. I'm worried. Advice?

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I don't know what to do. My mom is 76 yrs old. Mom lost her husband 2 yrs ago from cancer. My 3 older sisters, my wife and I all try to do our part to help her, engage her and take her shopping and out to dinner. When my wife and I moved back into the house so she wouldn't have to leave her home, we renovated and bought off the reverse mortgage that she was in over her head with. So we own the house now. It's a fairly large home and it gives enough separation without the feeling of being "left alone". But lately, she has been staying in her bedroom with the shades down. Her entire section of the house is dark. All the blinds are down and she doesn't let any light in. She is depressed. If she doesn't have anywhere to go - she stays in that bedroom all. day. long. I call and check on her and she seems to be fine. I can't always take her out 24/7 and if she is alone for more than 1 day - she goes into a deep depression. She's been smoking much more, like chain smoking now and I have seen small glasses left on the kitchen that had leftover booze in it in the morning. I'm worried.

Everyone thinks she's just fine, but I'm here to see it, witness it and she's a total different person than what my other sisters see. I'm the main caregiver - not that she is sick, but she is without a car and declining in movement/mobility.

Any suggestions to approach this tactfully and respectively?

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TheBoogs, I have to give your Mom a lot of credit being 76 years old and still wearing contact lenses.... I gave up on mine years ago. As we age our eyes tend to get dry so maybe the contacts lenses are scratching her eyes and that could cause the eye to be sensitive to bright light. In the whole scope of things, let's hope this is the only reason for the dark rooms.
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fregflyer - I didn't even think about that! She wears contact lenses… the last time she went to an eye doctor was last year. I'm going to double check that. Thank you for that suggestion!
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This is just a suggestion, have your Mom checked out by an eye doctor [MD] as maybe her wanting to be in darkness might have something to do with her eyes.... maybe she's become ultra sensitive to bright light.

Any time I go into my parents home, I feel like they are living in a cave because the house is so dark.... Mom's excuse for the darkness is that she doesn't want the sun to fad the rug or the furniture, but I know its because its too bright. Both she and Dad have those type of eye glasses that turn into sunglasses when in brighter light.... could be it's not going dark enough for them now.

Even I am experiencing this brightness at my age [67] and now am needing to have to wear sunglasses. Getting old is so much fun.
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Also, my older sister keeps bringing her cigarettes and we have a liquor cabinet, so I'm not sure if that has become a problem because she is (or was) a moderate drinker. And we need our own space for our own sanity - we cannot mesh living quarters. That's very unhealthy for all of us. She is a very capable woman, just lonely even if alone for one hour. We spend hours and hours with her, but those hours she is alone are the worst. Sad..
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It's funny you suggested all of these things because for one, I got a dog from a rescue shelter. This dog is my mom's little baby. She loves this dog more than life and my little pup has given her so much joy and laughter because she's this feisty little Chiweenie (half dachshund and half chihuahua). A very funny dog with some personality who LOVES my mom. She jumps on her bed and doesn't want to leave -it's adorable.

I'm a musician, so I play guitar a lot and write music. She's not really into socializing in the morning. Her thing is: cigarette and coffee in her "office" (bathroom). She isn't hard of hearing or has any sort of health issue. Believe me, I take her for a checkup ALL the time. The only disability that she "may" have is that she doesn't walk much because she has a huge hammer toe which pains her. Some days, her arthritis immobilizes her. But she is intelligent, witty - 'together' - but just depressed.

And just to give you an idea -- I came back home when Dad was diagnosed with cancer. So I helped take care of him for three years before he passed away. My mom always begs me to live home because it's a large house and I just loved where I was in my condo. But when I came back, she was thrilled. She still tells me how happy she is that my wife and I are living in the same house. So that's not a real issue. She has a great fear of living alone. So I'm glad that it gives her some sort of comfort.

I always call her in the morning to ask if she would like some coffee or breakfast - but she hates breakfast. She's a night eater. But I ask anyway.

We do not belong to a church, but we are of Christian faith. She prays all the time and has a deep connection with the big guy - but she doesn't like to fellowship or deal with people in church. That would be a great idea actually. I would be all for it.

I'm doing my best. I'm one helluva' cook - so I cook the most gourmet dishes for her and I do my best to take her out. She loves sitting at the bar eating dinner. And funny - everyone loves her! She turns into a social butterfly when she sits at the bar. (No she's not a huge drinker - she loves to people watch.)

I take her grocery shopping and that's what she calls her "exercise". I do have to drop her off in the front so she can hold onto a carriage to walk. I also pull back up to the front so I can unload her cart. She is very weak.

I'm in charge of doctor visits, dinner made every night, leisure time which is great cause I love her and she my dog and a beautiful entertainment center I bought for her and dad in their living room that never had a TV in there. So she loves to watch her game shows.

But now, she won't even come into the main living room to use her entertainment center. She stays in her room where it's soooooo incredibly dark. You can't even see it's daylight.

I don't know. I'm going to try to do everything I possibly can to cheer her up. I know it was my choice to enter this position and role, but sometimes I feel bad that her other daughters don't even come over just to say hi.

So that's where I'm at. I'm just worried and I don't go out at night with my wife like I used to - even out to dinner because I'm afraid she'll fall or need something. :(
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These issues have been nagging me since I wrote earlier. You wrote:

"It's a fairly large home and it gives enough separation without the feeling of being 'left alone;. ... Her entire section of the house is dark."

As the housing trends have grown to much larger and more private space for each member of the family, I've always wondered how family cohesiveness can be preserved. Maybe that's part of the issue. Maybe she needs to be closer to the family so she can interact more.

Can she help with cooking, light cleaning, laundry, etc.? Even if she just sits with your wife and folds clothes it's a social interaction. If your wife doesn't work out of the home, perhaps she can find activities which involve your mother, and give her a purpose (which she may have lost).

"If she doesn't have anywhere to go - she stays in that bedroom all. day. long." I think that's the telling factor - so the question is how can you create enough activities to keep her interest and get away from the isolation, smoking and drinking?

SoDone makes a very good point on that issue. She's more entrenched now in an addictive stage of coping, so that has to be addressed along with the underlying issues of how and why she got to that stage.

Please don't think I'm assessing blame; I'm not. Rather, I'm suggesting an evaluation so mid-course correction steps can be taken now.
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Who's buying her cigarettes and booze if she never goes out? If she's depressed, as it sounds like she is, then smoking and drinking is making it worse. She's retreated to a cave-like existence and that's cause for alarm. See if you can get her to a doctor.
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Also try music therapy. Get CDs of her favorite songs, bands, etc., play them in the morning to help her start the day out on a happy note (no pun intended).
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Read your response on the nonsocial parent thread and gained a bit more insight into the situation and what you've done so far.

If you're churchgoers, ask someone in an outreach capacity to select people to come and visit your mother for a while, perhaps once a week, twice a week, or more if it seems to help her.

Sure sounds like she's depressed, but perhaps she's also disoriented, if not more dependent, with the additional family in the house. By that I mean, and I assume, that she was living alone until your father died and probably felt a sense of independence. Now her home has been expanded and a new family is living there. Does she still feel this is her home? I don't know, but it might be something to consider.

She may have lost some sense of having to provide for herself and make her own decisions. Help her by giving her two choices of what to do when you're off work, opposite ones such as one that incorporates going out someplace vs. one that is home activity (board games, looking at old photos, something like that). See which she chooses; that will give you insight into what she wants to do.

If she can walk safely enough, and to ensure that she can continue to do so, take short walks around the neighborhood; at least she'll still be in your presence.

Try to find out which neighbors have dogs and call beforehand to ask if the dogs can be brought out to visit. Then encourage the dog families to stop by your house so your mother can see the dogs when they're out on their walks.

She may not feel comfortable in social situations because of something physical. If she hasn't had hearing and vision tests recently, get them to ensure that her sensory functions are still working properly.

It also wouldn't hurt for a thorough physical checkup to eliminate any other possible issues.

The darkness kind of scares me though; it's as if she doesn't want to day to begin, or just prefers to be in the dark. I don't want to infer what I think this could represent - there are others here with experience in depression - perhaps they'll respond.

Could you spend some time with her in the morning before starting work, just to help her day get off to a good start? Then perhaps take a lunch break with her. If you can do this it may give her something to look forward to, incrementally.
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