The phone rings, your mom's number shows up and you are filled with dread. You say hello and she gleefully announces that she's got a new phone card with 100 minutes!
You know she's going to share 99 minutes with you right now -- even though you told her you've got to make dinner, help your son with his homework and finish a work presentation. But none of this registers with your mom and as the conversation continues, your vocal chords tighten so much that they actually feel sore.
Phoning the kids every few day
I know one otherwise lovely senior who calls her kids every few days to say hi but often ends up rehashing her bad marriage or childhood problems -- same complaints, same hurts, no improvement. Sometimes she phones -- several times a day -- to find out where her adult children are and what they're doing.
She'll hunt her kids down by calling everyone she can think of -- friends, cousins, spouses and siblings. Arguments erupt and rifts are developing between her and other family members who are puzzled, frustrated and hurt by the frequency and doggedness of her calls, by her emotional outbursts and by her neediness.
If she were spending this much energy finding a seniors group to join or a retirement community to check out, they'd be ecstatic.
Calling community resources causes anxiety
But she won't. She won't investigate any of the options that are endlessly placed in front of her, even though she has expressed interest in some. To make even one such call fills her with anxiety. She worries about telling personal things to strangers, that if someone comes to her home she'll be embarrassed because it's not as tidy as it once was, and that she and her husband wouldn't be acceptable residents at a retirement community.
Not feeling like herself
To her credit she has expressed remorse at causing unpleasantness in the family and has also expressed fear that something is changing, that she doesn't feel like herself and that she can't account for her disturbing actions. Her doctor has given her the requisite tests and she has passed them all but still she wonders.
Having trouble sleeping
Like many seniors, this lady doesn't sleep well and hasn't for years in spite of regular visits to the doctor for various treatments and pills. And, like many seniors, she is isolated in her home. She is dependent on others to go out and doesn't get enough social or intellectual stimulation or physical exercise.
Vacation stay at retirement community
But how do you help someone who resists help and seems unable to help herself? How can you tell if an elder's neediness could be evidence of depression?
In this case, a family doctor might suggest a one-week vacation stay at a local retirement community that she visited recently and liked.
How could this help? It may throw much needed light on her mental state. While at the retirement community, staff will observe how well she interacts with other residents, whether or not she joins groups and participates in activities and how often she contacts family members.
Hopefully this lady will welcome her mini-vacation and the social, physical and intellectual stimulation will make her feel more like herself.
Other ways to help emotionally needy seniors
Has your family experienced the increasing emotional neediness of a parent or grandparent? How did you cope? Do you have tips for this stressed family?
Get in touch by leaving your comments below.