Hi All - Great resources in these forums and from the posters so thank you in advance for any input or feedback. I was encouraged to post here after posting in an unrelated forum. I will try to keep it short ...

My father (70) died suddenly in June. It was unexpected and my mom was present when it happened (sudden massive heart attack).

Prior to his death, my mother struggled with anxiety/depression. Depression seemed to arrive when anxiety disrupted her sleep. She was in/out of inpatient care for almost a year. Also had many rounds of ECT (electroconvulsive therapy).

Before the signification bouts of depression starting ~5 years ago my mother was pretty normal. Shopped, traveled, etc. She was a negative person, but found joy in many places in her life. She's always been fairly self-absorbed, too. I have never been close with my mother (neither is my sister), but she would tell you we are. Communication in my family was never made important.

Now that you have some background, we're at a strange crossroads. My mother doesn't go anywhere or do anything except necessities like groceries, oil change the car, haircut, etc. She has a poor diet and does not exercise. She's close to not being able to walk the stairs. I think her weight probably prevents her from properly washing / wiping herself. Sometimes she smells. I believe she's aware of all this.

She's going down a path that ends in death. She virtually meets with a counselor, outpatient therapy, and grief counselor once a week for ~1 hour each. I've met with all of them, spoke with her doctor, etc. Most of them say if she's doing the activities above then that's really good enough for someone with depression and we shouldn't do anything to majorly disrupt her daily flow.

So my issues or questions are this. She's clearly functioning and seems content. She still lives in the home her and my father owned. She hasn't moved anything just has kept things as is. I haven't seen her smile in years, but she otherwise exists. She likes to spend time in my house, but she just exists like a wallflower. I have 4 children under 8 and she will sit in a recliner for the duration of her stay. Seemingly she likes to be around other people, but doesn't want to interact or be helpful, etc.

Naturally I feel guilty watching her struggle to get up stairs successfully and eat healthy. When she coughs it often sounds like she's going to throw up, which I attribute to the weight. She seems like she'd enjoy a elderly home, but speaking to the better ones around here they say she's far too young. She doesn't maintain relationships with us, my kids, my sister, etc. ... we still have her over for holidays. It's at the point where I hate having her over. It's like a 5th child.

It seems like she's content to live alone and not be bothered, except for holidays/birthdays. I just feel like I have some obligation to tell her she's going to die if she keeps eating this way. I know any conversation on this topic with my mom will be devastating to her. Her pajamas are size L and she refuses to wear the correct size .... her midriff hangs out.

Comparing my story to many of yours it seems like I have it 'easy'. Does my mother seems a bit crazy or depressed to you? As someone that's never had a mental health issue I feel like my mother is just selfish and lazy ... she's using her 'depression' as a way to make all her laziness okay ... I feel like her counselor's enable her by not encouraging her to push more and make long term goals.

Anyway, this was a lot. I know a lot of this is a rant. It's just foreign to me how a mother doesn't want to have a relationship with her own kids. Who can watch her kids raise their children, while she's present, and just sit in a recliner and wait to be served drinks/food. My kids, though young, can already recognize she doesn't 'like' them.

- Frustrated

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"She's going down a path that ends in death."

We all are, from the second we exit the womb. Eat super healthy and exercise a ton, you're eventually gonna die. Eat junk food, smoke, drink, and never move? You're eventually gonna die. If she's functioning and content, let her be. She's probably still deep in grief if it's only been 5 months since her husband died. That's quite normal. The fact that she willingly talks to counselors speaks highly of her mental well being.

I'd step back and let her live her life the way she pleases.
Helpful Answer (9)

It sounds to me as though your mother has ALWAYS been somewhat self-centered and lacked the mental muscle for self care. And perhaps your dad "covered" for her in some ways?

Your mom is not lazy. She is mentally ill. You are not going to change her. Her health care team has told you "this is as good as it gets".

The only thing you have control over is your behavior and your reactions. If you think she is capable of getting up and getting her own food at your place, the don't bring her a plate.
Helpful Answer (8)

Your Mom has required ECT and inpatient therapy. I know that you know that this makes her not just a victim of depression, but someone who is severely compromised by depression, who will need help, care, perhaps hospitalizations, therapists and drug cocktails while they work, then a seeking for more drug cocktails. All of this is to say that your Mom is in a very very fragile state. One that will likely be with her until her death. This is not dementia by any means. But it is easily as severe and as difficult to manage and deal with. In fact, to my mind it is MORE difficult.
I know that you know the severity of your Mom's severe depression, because you have painted a beautiful picture of what life is like for her, and what care she requires. And how hopeless it all seems.
I think that you would do well to see to it that your kids are educated that this isn't just having a bad day or a bad week or a bad month. This isn't the normal depression they feel over the girl friend or the boy friend or the math test they failed. This is a mental illness. And this is going to take more than compassion; this will take EDUCATION for them to be ABLE to understand it at all. It is crucial that they understand that this isn't about them, but it is about a severely ill woman, trapped in a world of woe that may never go away.
You may want to consider family therapy with a good Social Worker who understands mental illness. Your children deserve answers and they deserve a safe place to say what they have to say. It could be only two or three sessions to change their entire worlds ongoing.
I can tell you we aren't even on the cusp of beginning to understand our brains, and mental illness. Buy everything you can by Oliver Sacks on our brains; Start with The Man who Mistook His Wife For a Hat. Make of your Mom the mystery she really IS for your kids, so they can learn from her, if not the doting love of a grandma who is all huggy, then the learning of the fragility of our minds, and the learning of compassion. You may have a future psychiatrist in your family waiting to solve the great mysteries of our minds.
And please, please, please. This isn't about Grandma not "liking them". You know the norm with grandmas! The worst kid in the world is actually the BEST kid in the world in their books; Your kids don't have "that grandma". They have this fragile soul. Let her teach them compassion. Help them learn, and learn with them.
And whatever you do, do not take her into your home. I hate I end on that. But see to it that she goes into care. Because while she may teach them compassion the having of this poor soul as your 24/7 job would destroy a normal life for your kids; you owe them that. They need to grow up whole and strong.
I'm so sorry for all you are going through. When I think what some people suffer I think of Star Trek and those magical little handhelds that diagnose and cure in a second. Where ARE those things for us.
You so clearly care. Go on caring the best you can, learning what you can, teaching what you can.
Consider reading Diane Keaton's book on her schizophrenic brother. Wish I could remember the name, but will be on Amazon. While his disease wasn't your Mom's it shows a family struggle to deal LIFELONG with an ill member. It shows that no matter all the money and doctors in the world, when we are hit with mental disease there ARE NO CERTAIN ANSWERS, and it is enough to tear the hearts from our chests.
I wish you the very best. All of you.
Helpful Answer (8)

Let's not call it an "elderly home" how about Retirement Community? Or Independent Living Community? (see how both have Community in the title?)
She would be in an apartment that would be on 1 floor. Probably built "accessible" so no stairs, no barriers so it would be easy for her to get around and if and when she has to begin to use a walker or wheelchair she would have fewer problems. And at 68 she would not be too "young" since most of them have 55 as the lower age limit.
She would also have the option to join others for games, meals and other activities. (hopefully most of them will return in the future)
I can see how and why your mom is depressed. Having her husband die suddenly can send anyone into a depressive state and if she was there already this does not make it easier. Has any one of the people that she talks to suggested that she attend a Bereavement Support Group? There will be others in the group that have experienced the same thing.
Helpful Answer (6)

I've yet to meet a person who's overweight, with poor eating habits, who doesn't know they're overweight and have poor eating habits. Food may be the last thing in your mothers life to bring her any joy. A coping mechanism, as it is for many.

Wearing a size Large, and even bulging out of a size Large, does not make your mother a severely obese individual.

She has bigger issues than what size pajamas she wears and whether she wants to move out of her recliner.

It honestly sounds to me like you mother's doctors are telling you she's doing the best she can. Losing her husband likely hasn't helped her depression in any way, but worsened it instead. Witnessing his sudden and unexpected death had to have caused post traumatic stress for her, in addition to the rest of her issues. PTSD is a terrible, terrible feeling I can't even explain in sufficient detail. It ramps anxiety up to all new heights.

Expecting your mother's counselors to push her more and to establish long term goals suggests you don't have faith in their ability to recognize and treat your mothers mental illness properly. That they should be applying YOUR logic to HER situation. Your logic doesn't apply because you are not suffering from a mental illness; she is.

Your father died a mere 5 months ago, which is very recent, yet you seem to expect no grief from your mother? Grief presents itself in greater depression and anxiety, most often, even for those without depression and anxiety to begin with.

You put "depression" in quotation marks, as if she may be faking and is just lazy? Yet she has doctors, therapists, has been in and out of in- patient care for over a year, and has had ECT therapy to boot. Rest assured that your mother has a legitimate depression condition which is quite serious or she would not have been given such extensive treatments.

I think you have to learn all you possibly can about depression and anxiety, what it looks and feels like, and what you can and cannot expect from your mom moving forward. While it's not easy for you to have a mom who's not present or involved in your life or your children's lives, it's tough for her to live like this as well. I'm quite sure nobody would choose such a life for herself, if given a choice. Teach your children by example that their grandmother has a disability, and help them to learn compassion for her and to treat her as they would their other beloved relatives.

I've lived with a mentally ill mother for 63 years who's refused any and all treatment. There's never been anything wrong with Her, and certainly no need for antidepressants or medications to control her violent anger or mood swings. It wasn't easy for me having a mother like that, then or now, and I've lost out on a lot over the years. At least your mother is asking for, and getting, help from professionals for a problem she recognizes and admits to having. I give her kudos for that, I really do.

I am so sorry for the loss of your father, and for the loss of the mother you never really had, much like me. It's a sad situation for all involved, and you have my sympathy. Wishing you all the best coming to terms with what is. I hope your mom can find some peace in her life and is able to eventually rekindle the joy she once had in certain activities.

Sending you a hug and a prayer.
Helpful Answer (6)

I am so sorry for the loss of your dad and the situation with your mom. Having experienced anxiety, depression and PTSD myself, it is a very difficult place to be in. It is not a choice or desire by any stretch of the imagination to have situational or organic anxiety and depression. I agree, there are individuals that can use "depression" as an excuse for certain behaviors, etc... However, this is not as rampant as we might choose to believe. This is a totally different disorder. Your mom is also walking through grief and possibly experiencing a form of PTSD. I think her pajama size and food choices are the least of concerns. I would focus on what her professionals have indicated regarding her diagnosis. I am sure she can be and has been difficult to relate to at times. I truly believe you! Seriously, give her time. I could not understand the need for giving myself and others "time" until I lost my dad in August. I now see that we all process things differently. Please remember, anxiety, depression, PTSD and grief are not always horizontal steps (though we read about the "steps" of grief). They can be more like a zig zag. Please take the pressure and expectations off yourself and your mom. Allow things to "just be" for the next 6 months. Allow yourself and your mom to find joy in the very small and simple things. A wise person that works with the elderly once told me, "life will eventually set in." Even last year, I had all kinds of self-improvement plans and goals for my parents, in-laws, etc... I could not understand why they wouldn't do this or that. I am now embarrassed for thinking in those terms. I had to let go of what I wanted for them...other than them being safe, clothed and fed. You are beautifully articulate. You can explain to your children about their grandmother's situation in developmentally appropriate terms. I acknowledge that my post may be interpreted as harsh or even lackadaisical, but this is my experience and I hope it reflects another perspective.
Helpful Answer (6)

Welcome to the forum! I think in your situation many will have the opinion that we can't diagnose your mother. The only thing you have control to do (but are not obligated to do) out of compassion is to sit down with her and have a gentle conversation about how she appears to be in decline on all fronts and that the family is concerned but helpless. You can explain what will happen if she doesn't course correct, as she is the only one with the power to do so. I'm assuming she's very obese, and not sure about the coughing...does she smoke? You can also explain that if she doesn't get her legal ducks in a row by assigning medical and financial PoAs, creating a Living Will, and doing some estate planning, she is setting herself up to become a ward of the county. This means the family will lose control over any decision-making on her behalf when she begins to need it (not IF, but WHEN). Explain to her that not making decisions IS a decision. You and your young family cannot orbit around her increasing needs, even if you wanted to. Informing her of reality and what you see your future would be in her care is the most you can do. Then ask her if she would like your help in helping herself to improve and prepare. If not, then this conversation need never happen again. I've never had clinical depression but it is an awful condition from what I've seen of family and friends who struggle with it. Sixty-eight is young still. I wish you much wisdom and peace in your heart as you figure things out.
Helpful Answer (5)

I would discount their saying she’s too young. I may be placing my 64 year old brother in a new apartment (assisted living) this year or next. Find a geriatric social worker and consult with them.
Helpful Answer (5)

It’s reasonable to talk with your mother about what she wants in terms of her living situation, maybe she’d be amenable to changing to a place better suited to her needs. She’s mentally ill, has long term depression that’s not likely to change, none of that needs to be rubbed in, just have compassion. Teach your children that just like they can hurt an arm or leg when they fall, a mind can also hurt and be very hard to make better. They will grow up to be caring and compassionate people who see the hardships of others through a caring lens. There’s no reason for you to feel guilt, I think you’re just sad that it isn’t different or better, grieve the loss of the mother you wished for and the grandmother your children won’t have. Your mother is blessed that you care, do the best you can and know your limits
Helpful Answer (4)

Welcome to agingcare forum!

I am so sorry for the loss of your father.

I can see that you have concerns about your mom. It is hard to watch a parent decline.

Your mom has suffered with legitimate issues. Depression and anxiety can be crippling. Throw grief and other health issues into the mix and it’s a devastating situation for your mom.

Overeating or under-eating can be a symptom of depression. So I would not focus on her diet. That is most likely the least of her concerns right now.

I would not say that your mom’s counselors are enabling her if they are telling you that she is doing all she can at this time in her life. They are professionals. Respect their opinions.

Please allow her time to process your father’s death and adjust accordingly.

Don’t expect her to put on a front. She is making an effort by participating in therapy. I would encourage her, show understanding and empathy for her situation.

Explain to your children that grandma isn’t feeling well or perhaps get a sitter for your children when you visit your mom.

I hope your mom will start to feel better soon.

I hope you will find peace during this challenging situation.
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