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Frustrated by immovable Mom

Dear Hannah,

At the age of 80, my Mom slid from her chair and broke her hip. Successful hip surgery was performed. She experienced delirium after the surgery. Two months later she was walking well and back at home. But she is not the same person. She will not go out for her usual walks. She refuses to go to a restaurant. And, most troubling of all, she refuses to see a doctor. She is tidy, dresses, goes downstairs for meals and watches TV for 6 or 7 hours a day. Recently she said “I can’t deal with my bills or the bank anymore. You take care of it all!” I have Power of Attorney. She has always been plagued by panic attacks, vertigo, and excessive worrying but she never sought out medical or psychological treatment. She repeatedly tells me how to distribute her money and her possessions after her death. I want my Mother to be happy, to enjoy her life but she seems indifferent and passive. I only succeed in getting her angry and upset when I pressure her or argue with her. What is happening to my Mom?

Dear “Frustrated by my immovable Mom”,

The fact that your mother probably has a depressive personality style, linked with postoperative delirium, leads me to a possible diagnosis of postoperative depression. Her “indifference” to her health and her lifestyle are important symptoms. Many patients hide their state of mind from families and caregivers alike. Talking with a mental-health professional about details of the surgery and recovery can help provide some assistance in your mother’s case, also getting her to talk to you about her hopes and fears can help too (John F. Lauerman, Harvard Magazine, July-August 2000, An “Understandable” Complication: Coming to terms with postsurgical depression). It is imperative that your mother have a current physical and mental status review. This should be initiated through your family physician.

What you can do is visit often, make her comfortable, and supply her with whatever it is that she needs: be there for her in a caring, loving way. Her condition may be more serious than you think. In her own way, she is living a quiet, organized life which suits her. There are times when we cannot change a situation; rather, we must learn to accept the status-quo.


Hannah Luber, M.Sc. Counselling