Worried about aging parent.

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

I’m really concerned about my mother and unsure whether her behaviour is indicative of some physiological ill health.

She has always been controlling with some indicators of possible bipolar disorder (eg going to bed with headaches for days when we were young then getting up at 4 am to cook many dozens of muffins for breakfast then rewrite the curriculum for our social studies classes and provide it to our teachers) but lately she is expressing some paranoid ideas about my sisters & I. She has also become quite obsessive about past wrongs done to her — currently she is wanting us to be angry with her toward our father for an affair that he had over 35 years ago. This is more than someone reflecting on past wrongs — she is very very angry as if the wrong had just occurred. She cannot tolerate any suggestion to move on. She is physically agitated, unable to sit still, planning our tv shedule for the next week. She has lost her excellent sense of humor.

She refuses to discuss how she feels unless it is to talk about how others have abandoned her and haven’t validated her. She states that she can relate to the Jews being in concentration camps as that is “how her life has been” (her life as far as we know has been fine — and…she’s not Jewish).

She can control this behaviour — my husband has never observed it — but seems unaware of how her children and husband are responding to her comments.

I’m baffled! Should I be worried about her?

A: Yes you absolutely should be worried about her. I can’t offer a diagnosis on the basis of a letter, of course, but you do give a history of bipolar illness and her behavior could suggest a hypomanic episode.

On the other hand, there are a number of medical/physical illnesses that can make someone her age look quite crazy. An untreated chronic infection, a tumor on the brain, early Alzheimers, hypoglycemia, and even vitamin deficiencies can make someone anxious, delusional, and confused. Before you decide she has a mental illness, it’s essential to rule out an undiagnosed medical condition.

Please let your mother know that you take her very, very seriously and that you are concerned about her health. Make an appointment with her doctor and carefully explain to him or her what you have been observing. Request a complete medical workup. The physician will then be able to give you the guidance you need.

I wish your mother well,
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 1 Oct 2007

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2007). Worried about aging parent.. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 23, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2007/10/01/worried-about-aging-parent/