Question: My mother is 59 and my father is 84. My father is ailing with multiple health conditions. He is unable to leave the house (but is able to take care of himself while my mother is at work). My father's health is always a concern but my mother has a good handle on it. However, my sister and I have started to become concerned about my mother's health, not necessarily physically but emotionally. She is an only child and has always taken on obstacles independently. Lately we can tell she isn't okay. I don't know how to help her. She refuses our help saying she doesn't want to "bash" our dad in front of us. We have encouraged her to speak to a counselor or therapist, but she doesn't think she needs to. Do you have any suggestions on how we can help my mother and father? I know she has his best interests at heart, but I don't want her to put herself at risk. God forbid we lose both our parents.
Dr. Amy: Your mother is so lucky to have two such loving daughters. I fully understand the concern you feel for her.
Now that your father is older and his health is failing, your mother may be thinking more about her life and what comes next. It is also possible that something else is challenging her. How she handles this and what support she decides to take is really up to her. I encourage you to respect her decision about counselling. She is an adult; you are her daughters. When she is ready, she will reach out for support.
You can do a great deal of good and show her you love her by helping her with some of the load. I encourage you give your mother as much help as you can with housework, shopping, and caring for your father. Being a caregiver while holding down a job is stressful and tiring, so the more help you can give her the better. You may be overtaxed yourself, so if you cannot provide the help yourself, perhaps you can help arrange for some support.
I also encourage you to offer your mom ways to relax and recharge. Can you go to a yoga class or church together? Can you encourage her to join a book club, a choir, or a craft circle? It's important that she take time away from her worries and concerns to recharge.
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