Mom’s depression is becoming my depression... any advice?

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Mom is 94 and has a bad hip, copd, and now dental issues. She lost my Dad three years ago, her 13 year old dog passed away within months also. She was living alone until last fall when my sister and I convinced her to move to a senior apartment within five minutes of us. It’s a wonderful place with activities and caring residents. I’ve tried to get her to interact with the other residents, but she doesn’t hear well so shuts down. She is older than most others there, but insists that she can take care of herself and doesn’t want assisted living. She has been getting along okay except for her overwhelming unhappiness. She wants her old life back. Every visit or phone call always ends up with a laundry list of everything she has given up. Her health is failing and she’s becoming frail, so needs more help than she’s willing to get. She is angry and resentful over the smallest things we do to help her. Any offer of help is met with objections and a fight. When we moved her near us, I envisioned taking care of her. Getting her groceries, taking her places, having lunch or dinner together, or just doing my best to take care of her. She has fought us all the way, never saying thank you for anything we do. My sister and I are doing everything we can to help her enjoy herself. I totally see how difficult it is for her to let go of the past, but it is killing part of me too. Her depression is becoming my depression. I took her to my doctor, but the doctor didn’t say anything other than it’s perfectly normal to grieve the loss of your independence. I can’t just stop visiting her, she’s been my best friend my whole life. I want to help her, but don’t know how. Sorry this is so long, any advice?

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You can NOT be responsible for someone else's happiness. Something I learned first hand from taking care of my mother.
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Mother's behavior doesn't sound like clinical depression, at least not the kind that can be healed with a medication and chatting with a therapist. It sounds like overwhelming unhappiness, and mourning. When you lose something you cherish -- your spouse, your pet, your ability to drive -- it is normal to grieve. And your mother has a huge long list of things to grieve. I hope for her sake she will move beyond this and enjoy the time she has left, but it is possible this attitude is now permanent.

You, however, may benefit from a few sessions with a talk therapist, and possibly even a medication. Have you ever suffered from depression before? Even if this is "just the blues" and not clinical depression, talking about it with a trained third party can be very supportive.

Your mother has been your best friend your whole life. But she is no longer the mother you know and love. She is not quite herself. And, given her age, she will eventually leave you completely. I think you may be experiencing some anticipatory grief. Nothing "crazy" about that, but you deserve whatever support you can arrange. Another possible source of support is a caregiver support group. And this site!

(BTW I am not qualified in any way to give medical or psychiatric advice, in person or at a distance! I'm just sharing my opinion based on experience.)
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My heart goes out to you and your sister, and to your mom too. I used to worry about my mom because she was so isolated (in my view). She lived in independent living but chose to stay in her room 99% of the time as she got into her 90s. Mom had no short-term memory and I think she understood that enough to know she repeated herself endlessly. That made her uncomfortable around others. And the people she knew when she first moved in years ago had either died or moved out. It was just too tough for her to make new friends. I finally came to accept that she was choosing to live her life the way she wanted. She had other options but she chose not to avail herself of them. Once I could accept that, I was much happier.

We don't have the power to make our parents young or healthy or bring back their loved ones who have passed. We can be there for them in the best way we can, but it's their choice whether to be happy or not. Like others have said, acknowledge her unhappiness and then redirect her. If that doesn't work, cut the visit short. And get some counseling if it's still depressing you too much. Your mom is safe and much loved and cared for and that's pretty good compared to a lot of seniors.
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I completely understand. You are describing my mom. She passed a year ago. She lived in a senior apartment like your mom, with nice people and activities. She hated it. And, the first signs of her dementia were when she claimed one of the male residents was stalking her.

I learned with my mom that there is nothing you can do to change how they feel. My mom was always negative and paranoid. As I’ve aged, I’ve come to understand a little about how she feels. It’s not fun to get old. I guess some people take it out on whoever is closest. Mom did. She didn’t really blame me, but vented to me every time I talked to her. As her dementia increased, her venting got worse only now it was about impossible happenings. I didn’t try to make her happy other than bringing her candy and snacks, pictures of her great grandson (she had no idea who they were but liked the photos anyway) I did what I could. It had to be enough.
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The only thing I can suggest would be agreeing with her then try redirecting her.
Mom-"I can't get around like I used to."
You-"I've noticed that. It must frustrate you."
Then let her vent for a few sentences. Nip it with "That's why sis and I wanted you closer to us so we can help you. Fortunately there are others here who can help you too. That makes us feel so much better. We love you."

By letting her know that you hear what she's saying and sympathize with her, she'll feel more comfortable. But stopping the whine and pointing out the positives hopefully will put her on a more positive (and thankful) track.

Maybe she's in pain also. That gives anybody a grumpy and complaining attitude. Has a doctor assessed her for pain?
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I, too, am very appreciative of the dialogue examples. My sister has learned how to redirect my Mom, but I guess I’m having trouble with that. It seems like it should be an easy thing to do, but somehow every time I end up trying to help fix a thing when she just wants to vent. I end up getting a tongue lashing nearly every time. I am also aware that I need to talk to someone about it, since I am unhappy about the situation too. This board is Wonderful! Even if I don’t post, I’m reading it every day. Thanks for being here.
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Thanks Hugemom, I’m sure this is the beginning of a long road. I keep in mind that it is just how close we have been all these years that makes her vent on me. She never blames me either, but now I’m looking at aging in a whole new way and it’s depressing.
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I am not qualified to diagnose anyone. However, I wonder if it might be complicated grief. Someone at the home (LSCW, chaplain?) might be able to work out if that is the case, and help.
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I am so appreciative (SueC), of the dialogue examples of how to react to our parents who express their depression. Knowing what to say and redirection is an important part of this process that I am still learning. Thank you to all of you! I am still in the process of trying to get my mother to go to HER doctor to receive some medical support. She will not listen to me and is very paranoid when I suggest it.
"Why, I don't need the doctor right now". Then, a few minutes later says" I think Im out of medicine." When I offer to call in for refills....etc. she refuses.
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Dear tryingmybest, you are feeling what so many of us have experienced. Parents do vent to those that they are closest to and yes it can get depressing to the point you don’t want to be around them. It can drag one down. What has helped me is to do what’s called detaching. Looking at my dad as though watching a movie. If you are what is called an "empath" then you take on another persons emotions and it can be difficult to shake. I’m like that. Your mother does sound depressed to me. It’s likely the mourning of her losses are dragging her down and yes, it can chemically imbalance the brain. But getting her on an SSRI May be difficult. It helped my dad a lot. So how do YOU change so that you can handle this? One thing is to not visit or talk to her every single day. Plan on something daily that will bring you some joy...even as simple as relishing a cup of tea and a magazine. I have found ten minutes a day of meditation helpful. Also, a good book to use to help you manage her is Loving Hard to Love Parents by Paul Chavetz.  There are many helpful tips in there. Have you thought of going to a therapist yourself? That too has helped me.   This is very stressful on caregivers so protect yourself.
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