How Can I Best Help My Mentally Ill, Older Mother?

By Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Q. My mother is mentally ill and refuses to see any doctor. My mother is 81 years old. I am 40. In all my life she’s seen a doctor maybe 6 or 7 times ever. Twice for pnemonia, a couple times for a nosebleed that wouldn’t stop, and a few months ago she saw a rhematologist a few times and got diagnosed with severe rhematoid arthritis. The doctor put her on medication which was helping her ability to walk greatly. But, then she stopped taking it because she was scared of the side effects.

All my life she’s had clear and obvious emotional problems. I have no doubt that she is moderately bi-polar, and she is suffering from paranoia to the point of non-bizarre delusions. She has suffered from both issues all my life. My issue is this. She needs the R.A. medication or else she can’t care for herself. Even with the R.A. meds, she needs to move out of her house and into a senior housing place. Without the R.A. meds, she needs to move into an assisted living location. But, because of her moods, and paranoia, she is now refusing to see a doctor. She’s to the point now where she is starting to be a danger to herself. What do I do now? She needs help. What can I do to ensure she gets the help she needs if she is so resistant to seeing doctors, or taking medication? Please help.

A. This is a difficult issue. It seems as if your mother has been behaving irrationally much of her adult life. While her behavior and the way in which she led her life were unhealthy, she was able to still care for herself. But at this late stage of her life, she is unable to care properly for herself and you are her caretaker. The problem is that as her caretaker, you can no longer care for her. She will not let you. This is not your fault. She is unwilling to get help or take needed medications and there is nothing that you can do to change this. You cannot force her into the car and into a doctor’s office and you cannot force her to take medications. At this point, she may be a danger to herself.

It seems that your only choice in this situation is to consider an assisted living facility or other similar living arrangements. In an assisted living facility, she’ll be safe and will have the benefit of having trained, medical staff to help her live day-to-day. They can ensure she eats properly, bathes, and takes her needed medications, among other things. She will also have access to doctors and this may also include psychiatrists or therapists who can treat her paranoia or other mental health-related symptoms.

The fact is that you may have done all that you can. You can no longer do this alone. What she needs seems to be beyond your capacity to give. It does not seem feasible for you to help her any longer without the assistance of others. Your mother is lucky to have someone who cares about her and is concerned about her well-being. I know this move may be difficult for the both of you but because she is verging on being a danger to herself, you have few options. In order to ensure her safety, consider assisted living.

Photo

 

 

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 18 Feb 2008

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2008). How Can I Best Help My Mentally Ill, Older Mother?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 25, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2008/02/18/how-can-i-best-help-my-mentally-ill-older-mother/