If your aging parent or loved one suffers from mental illness, you suffer, too. Listen to Kathy's story:
"My mother is 90. Twenty-three years ago she moved from Washington to Arizona. About the same time, she began exhibiting extreme paranoid behavior. Looking back, though, her illness may have started in her 40s."
Kathy and her family have attempted to reach out to her mother in many ways: through contacting neighbors, sending cards and pictures of children and grandchildren and even visits, or attempted visits.
"I visited four times. Each time she yelled through the screen door, 'Leave me alone! You're only here to give me those medications. And I don't want them.'"
The neighbors say they see her drive, and get in and out of the car, without talking to anyone. When twin granddaughters were born, she did fly to the Seattle area to see them, but stayed only one day and avoided the rest of the family.
"I have nightmares about her dying alone and not having anyone know," Kathy said, adding, "I feel powerless, with no copy of a power of attorney or will."
I'm not a trained counselor or therapist. I am the daughter of a woman who was diagnosed with mental illness in midlife and who suffered profoundly.
I can understand Kathy's pain. I feel so sorry for her family! She has done so much to try to reach out to her mother. My suggestions were for her to contact Arizona Adult Protective Services so they could check on her mother for possible self-abuse. And also to contact the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill for information on support groups and classes. Sharing with others often eases the pain.
Kathy also allowed me to share her story with you, in the hopes that you might have some ideas for her situation.
Do you have experience with mental illness in an older adult (parent or other)? Could you offer Kathy encouragement or any steps she might take to help herself, her family and her mother?