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05 Aug 2011

Elderly depression
Dear CyberShrink,

I hope you are well.

February 2010 my Grandfather (77 years old) passed away after a year-long fight with cancer, leaving behind our independent, fun-loving Grandmother (71 years old).

My Gran has been dealing with my Grandfather’ s passing exceptionally well. She joined a support group of ladies who lost their husbands to cancer, moved into a small town house where she does the gardens for the entire complex, joined the gym and obtained a small little dog as companion. However, about three weeks ago my Gran took her little dog for a walk and had a horrible fall.

Gran was in hospital for about two weeks and now has a nurse with her at home. Yesterday was my Gran’ s 72nd birthday and my Mom realized that all the signs are there that she is falling into a depression. While she was in hospital she was very emotional as all the memories of my Grandfather’ s struggle resurfaced, and as independent as she is, it’ s hard for her to rely on a nurse at home.

How do we go about supporting her through this time? What should we do, what should we say, what behaviour should we encourage? Being there for her and listening when she needs to talk is not a long-term solution for us, I think. It’ s the type of thing where it helps within that moment and on that day, but it’ s not a long-term solution to getting back our independent, fun-loving Gran.

Is it possibly time that we consider getting her a small house within a retirement village where she can keep her little dog, they have nurses and professionals on hand, and she will be surrounded by friends of her own age? Or will this possibly send her even deeper into depression, creating the idea that we think she cannot take care of herself anymore?

I will really appreciate any feedback and advice, as I am very worried that this is the type of thing that cause rapid aging in my Gran and will take her from us long before her time.

Thank you very much for being part of this great initiative! Your assistance is greatly appreciated.

Kind regards,
Lucia Visser
Answer 465 views

01 Jan 0001

Sometimes we are actually coping very well with a loss ; sometimes that same appearance is more superficial, and a way of avoiding the deeper feelings, which one will need to process and work through some time. And for the fiercely independent amongst us, such an accident that forces us, even temporarily, to be dependent on someone else,is very hard to bear.
Don't devalue the valuable controbution you are making by being there and listening - often one of the hardest things to get when one really needs it is someone to listen, and especially, as in your case, someone who knows the facts and the person one has lost.
Counselling, if one can find a counselor familiar with helping grief, can be helpful. Such a person might be found through the Cancer Association or local hospice.
YOu need advice from her doc as to how long her current state of dependency is likely to last. Is there a realistic chance of her resuming a physically active life-style ? Or if not, could a situation be devised when she can use her remaining skills of alertness and psychological activity to continue to be useful ?
Have you tried discussing with her what she would prefer in this particular situation ? Part of what galls us is the sensation of having other people make major decisions for us, without even involving us in the discussion.
Being forced to change from someone who is useful and needed to someone who feels useless and unnecessary, redundant, can be the hardest thing to bear.
It may be important to find ways to do for her what she can truly no longer do for herself - and nothing more. Doing for her what she COULD do for herself, or even for others, will be particularly irksome

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