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How to support a parent with Depression?


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Dear friends,

I am reaching out because I need to know how to help my father who is affected by depression. I am a young man and have been out of college for a few years myself. My Dad has been on anti-depressants for over 20 years, but now that he is getting into his 60s the side affects seem to be getting noticeable. Whenever there is an argument he just stays silent or ignores it, he deals with problems by running away and not talking about them. He has always been an introvert. Me being an extrovert, I have a hard time trying to help him, as I would go to talk to friends to try and help myself if I am having trouble with something in my life. So I don't know how he solves his problems.

He has trouble focusing on completing tasks, and gets easily side tracked. It's not with the everyday things, but with larger projects. He takes things slowly step by step, so methodically that it takes him a long time to accomplish things that take me just 10 minutes. His ability to learn new things is not as fast as he used to be. I explain something to him one day, and then the next day he asks me how to do it again. He is also a very disorganized person, and using the pile not file method, which I think reflects how he thinks in his mind.

He is a caring and loving Dad, but I can't talk to him like a regular adult. I can't challenge him to complete new tasks. He gets annoyed and sometimes defensive.

:confused:How can I best help my Dad to accomplish the things he needs to get done. I am living with my parents right now, but I don't have time to micromanage his day. I constantly get frustrated with him because of all these things.

Are these normal side affects of depression medications? Last year he changed medications briefly, he cut 2 of the 3 he was taking, in a slow controlled manner over months, by his doctors recommendation. The reason for the change in medications last year, was that one of this 3 doctors said the toxicity levels of the medicine were too high in him because he has been taking them for so many years. I don't know the drugs names. and he became a completely different person.

During the time of decreasing the meds, he described himself as having so many creative thoughts he could not contain, and my mother described his as a hyper person, definitely not like now. Before this brief period of acting hyper, he was similar as he is now. He ended up have to take more medications again, because wheb he changed his 3rd and last medication, he has some adverse consequences. He started getting extremely depressed, so now he is on more medications again.

When my Dad was more himself last year, my Dad and I both talked and agreed that it was not a good thing that he "lost" so many active years of thought and creativity because of his medication. We said we didn't want it to happen again, but it has. He is not aware of that he is back in his old state.

How can I be supportive of him, how can I help him, and encourage him to focus more and achieve his goals and tasks better. The ways I use with normal people just don't work on him, and you are the first place I have turned to. Should I ask to meet with his doctors privately, or with him and our family? Do you need to know the medications he is on to give better advice?

Thanks and God bless,

Peter

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Peter,

I think you are a wonderful son to care so much. Did you or Dad check into other medications? (Of course, this would be done through a discussion with his doctor.) There are so many choices out there and so much new research.....maybe he does need to readjust his medications. I know I get frequent relapses and often wonder whether I should ask my doctor to research other options. My issues are not circumstantial, so to speak, they are just constant worries and anxious thoughts about the future, but they are debilitating, nonetheless. And, I don't know how others feel, but if one of my loved ones talked to a doctor on my behalf, I would be genuinely appreciative. Although doctors want to hear from the patient, sometimes a family member is aware of things that others, including the patient, may overlook. Perhaps the two of you can actually go together? Believe me, we don't WANT to suffer from depression and anxiety, so any help you offer would be a benefit to him. It's actually too bad that your father doesn't try support groups himself. When we see others with similar issues, we gain strength from their viewpoints and just in knowing we are not alone. Maybe he can do small tasks, a little at a time, so he doesn't feel overwhelmed or frustrated. Take baby steps until he feels good about accomplishing things. But, it does seem like he needs further medical attention...although I am not qualified to judge, but it sounds like he (and you) are suffering.

Good luck to you and your dad. I hope he finds some inner peace........

Edited by serenitynow
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Thank you for your perspective and your kind words for me.

I have a hard time suggesting certain things to my dad, because I don't want to hurt his pride, but he may genuinely appreciate it like you would. I'll ask him if I can come with him the next time he meets with one of his doctors.

I know he has gone to a support group before, I just don't know how regularly, or if he still is, or if now it's just a couple times a year instead of regularly.

I didn't even know my dad was clinically depressed until a few years ago, so I have to learn as I go on how to help.:o

The good news is I have my sister to help as well, and this online community.

Best,

Peter

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Peter,

I was thinking about how you said Dad "lost" years because of medication. It's exactly the opposite for me.....I feel like I "lost" time with depression and anxiety. I fight it everyday, tooth and nail, but have NOT neglected my responsibilities. It is an extreme effort to move forward because my mind doesn't ever stop thinking of traumatic situations, but I need to keep busy. The reason I am telling you this is because it sounds like Dad may be losing time NOW as well as before when he felt the side effects from the meds. And, it's hard to live with the guilt of lost time when you look back later on and realize how much time was wasted. I do find that when I am busy and focusing on accomplishing tasks, I feel better. Keeping busy helps, but at the same time, we cannot be in denial of the fact that we are not happy with who we are. Would Dad consider corresponding online like the rest of us? Again, I have to say that Dad is so lucky to have you help him and care for him....it means a lot to know someone is there supporting you when you need it....I think we ALL need support from time to time.

Edited by serenitynow
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Guest ASchwartz

Hi Peter,

Yes, Dads can resist getting help, particularly in the area of mental help. However, even though his pride might be hurt, you can approach him by telling him how worried you are and how it would help you if he would see the doctor.

I cannot tell you what might be medicine side effects versus something else. He needs to be seen by his psychiatrist and as soon as possible. There are any number of things that could be going on with your dad and some of them could be physical in nature, although these things are rarely separate. I am sure he also needs a physical check up and an evaluation of his medications: that is why starting with the psychiatrist would be a good idea.

In no way can you nor should you micro manage your fathe or mother.

By the way, have you discussed your father with your mother? She might have more leverage with him than you do.

Peter, you say that you are a young man. Therefore, it is important that you not get entrapped into caring for your parents. You need to develop your own life and move as soon as it is feasible.

Why are you at home at this time and what are your plans for the future?

Allan:)

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About the lost time, you may be confusing the timeline a little. He was on 3 meds for many years. Then about a year ago his doctor trimmed it down to 1, and for a few months he was a creative, even hyper person. Then changed the last med which caused bad depression. Now since last spring he is on 2-3 meds again and he seems to be back where he started or worse.

I agree without taking any medications he probably would be paralyzed and that wouldn't be good, but I feel he has room to change now though because of that brief time I saw him improve significantly.

And Allan-

He does see 2-3 different pysciatrists, so I don't know why they aren't helping him enough. So I'll try and go with him to his next appointment.

About my mother having leverage - These difficulities have gone on so long that my parents relationship is extremely strained, and they are not on very loving terms. They go through cycles of blowing up at eachother and then settling into quiet times without much communication, they don't have a healthy relationship. That is why I am looking for help here.

About my situation. I take some collateral damage, or collatoral anger from my Mother during these cylces of anger and calm. Very often I feel like I am lecuring them on how to act like adults. It's impossible for this work very well because I am their son though, and my mother feels this advice is often disrepectful .

They are both unable to help themselves, that's why I feel like I need to micromanage their finding help. My Mom is in more of a coping stage, unable to live fully. And my Dad from his depression is unable to see his own situation to help himself.

About myself, I am actually job searching to move to a different state after living on my own in the big city of my home state for a number of years. I felt the need to get out on my on and grow more. I have been home for about four months as I job search and network in other states.

Peter

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Guest ASchwartz

Hi Peter,

Thanks for the clarification. I really want to encourage you about moving out of state. I do not want to appear cold or unsympathetic to your parents but I have seen how parents can, unwittingly, strangle the lives of their adult children by keeping them home and putting them in the "middle." In many cases, even the most worst off parents (did I say the right?) do better left to themselves than when they have one of their children in the house. It's just too easy to let the adult child become the responsible one, even when it is not their intent.

What do others think about this? Peter is discussing a common problem???????

Allan:)

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This is a tough one because from the depressed person's point of view.....he/she needs support from loved ones. However, Peter does need to cultivate his own life. But cultivating his own life can still be done locally if he goes about it in a carefully constructed manner. He can be available when he is needed but not encourage his parents' dependency. Independence from loved ones doesn't always have to be geographical. He can still be a responsible and self-sufficient adult while being physically close, but he can't always solve their problems for them. So, I think if he wants to stay in the same area, he has to set ground rules and show his parents he is there for support, but he cannot cater to them or their needs. I just feel like we all need to know there are loved ones around to help, while at the same time not burdening them. It may be a fine line, but it's worth a try. On the other hand, they can't stand in his way. If Peter has an opportunity elsewhere, he should be free to go wherever he chooses. I just have a hard time thinking his decision to leave would be based on just providing himself with distance from them....that shouldn't be the sole reason....he has to WANT to go for opportunity, change, job, etc.

Edited by serenitynow
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