one parent depressed one alzheimers help

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Hi
i am new to this forum, in fact any forum but really hoping for advice.
I have one parent with early stage Alzheimers who is on medication and fairly stable, showing some mood changes. Has always been a calm and mild spirit but now is a litttle OCD about things, struggles with decision making but (nothing serious ).
However, i have my other parent has clinical depression, has for at least 30 years the other has always been the support but now is struggling.
my siblings and I only hear the depressed one moaning about the other, they realize that they are now the supporting part of the relationship and the change is very difficult during good months, but now winter approaches (their worst time) and already we are experiencing the negative affects of their depression.
We need to support them both and have been trying but the depressed parent is affecting the other.

For example we got accused of abandoning them both by the depressed parent when we hadn't been in touch for two days and then this one said to the Alzheimer one that "their life was now over!"
the Alzheimer one then felt so bad that they were having this affect on their partner they were asking" i am not that bad yet, am i? i thought i was ok at the moment?" (which they were assured that they are and it is just the depression talking )
I am so upset ,i appreciate that depression brings on crazy talk (had to deal with it most of my life) but i dont know how to help them both.
Anyone any ideas, i appreciate that this is a very simple over view but suggestions would be helpful
Hmm, I'm going to be blunt, because to be honest, I think that's the best thing - you cannot support someone with depression.

it's impossible.

They just go on being depressed whatever you do or don't do. So since you can't help them, to be honest, there's no point trying.

I know that sounds harsh, but depression is a bottomless pit, and outsiders (anyone else!) cannot 'stop' the person being depressed.

Realising that can be a huge freedom for the family.

It sounds like the reason the depressed parent is sinking so much currently is - again, sorry to be blunt - because right now it is the non-depressed parent who not only is not around to 'support' the depressed spouse, but actually (dares!) to need help themselves.

The DP (Depressed parent) has probably expected the NDP to 'look after them' all their married lives, and now can't cope with the boot being on the other foot.

I'm afraid I would focus on the needs of the NDP now they have dementia, and not over-stress about the DP. They are going to be depressed whatever you do, and whatever the situation. You can't cheer them up, so don't bother trying.

Accepting that there's nothing you can do to improve the situation of the DP (because even if they won the lottery they'd still be depressed!) will be a great freedom for you.

Have you been raised by the DP to feel responsible for their (non)happiness? I was by my mother. She didn't mean to, she was a lovely person, but her MH problems meant my brother and I spent our lives 'trying to make her happy' - it was our task, our role, our responsibility.

Of course it was useless, so we just felt guilty and failures.

It's the reason I'm now so 'cavalier' about people with depression because the horrible horrible truth about depression is that it is IN them, and outside circumstances are 'irrelevant'. Your DP parent will always be depressed.

It's not your problem that they are.

I know you probably love them (we loved our mum dearly, and she us) but you just have to accept what depression does to someone, especially chronic depression that has grown in to them for 30 years.

Developing 'immunity' to them is very hard (see guilt and failure above) but it can be done. We can love them, pity them, but in the end we can't help them. They will moan whatever.

Your task now with your siblings is to plan ahead for your NDP with dementia, and make sure you make the very very most of them while they are still 'mentally alert' and plan the care they'll need as they so sadly decline further.
Sorry if I've sounded very unsympathetic about the DP in my post above - I don't mean to be so 'deliberately', more 'realistically'. You just have to accept they won't change and won't cheer up. So often we want them to 'cheer up' because it makes life easier for US, so WE don't have to be upset by their unhappiness, and we can get on with our own lives, etc etc.

But we can't live our lives waiting or hoping for a depressed person to 'cheer up' (I use 'cheer up' in a non-clinical fashion, and I do accept they 'cannot' 'pull themselves together' etc etc, but that doesn't make it any easier to deal with them or have them in our orbit). That's why I so strongly advocate not 'indifference', but 'immunity' - we have to learn to not let their 'downers' affect us emotionally. No point us being down as well, is there???

In practical terms, first of all, is the DP on any kind of anti-depressants, I do hope so, and if not, that's essential and will be increasingly so as the dementia of the NDP worsens. Can you go an see your parents GP (do they share them?) and discuss the whole situation so the GP is aware of the growing problems?

All that said, looking after someone with dementia of any kind is gruelling ,and when it is your spouse it especially emotionally painful - gradually and inexorably a wife will lose her husband, or a husband their wife....it's a 'slow widowing' and very, very distressing and painful. So, in a way, now the DP parent really does have 'something to be deeply, deeply depressed' about.....and with good cause.

It's going to take a lot of 'family planning' and maybe you and your siblings need now to sit down and think about the coming 12 months, and then the next year after that. At some point, very likely, your parents will need outside help of some kind - it's almost inevitable. It's essential they accept this, and if you read on these boards you'll see it's a recurring issue - elderly parents not wanting 'outsiders' to 'interfere'. The common cry here from members if 'They only want ME to help them!'

The burden on you and your siblings will increase inexorably, and it won't obviously be helped by now you have TWO parents 'in need', both worsening. That's why the general advice on this forum is for family not to be hands on carers necessarily (or at all sometimes) but 'care organisers'.

And that does mean outside help. Which is why seeing your parent's GP can set that ball rolling.

Finally, sadly, one thing you may have to accept is that 'in the end' whenever that is (and be warned, from what I've read the 'average length of life' after dementia has been diagnosed is EIGHT YEARS - that's a LONG time.....), it may be that your parent with dementia will need residential care in a specialist care home. you only have to read the long term consequences of this dreadful disease to see why -

My poor MIL with dementia now needs 24x7 care. She can get up (and fall) any time in the night, wandering around, be completely helpless, and is now doubly incontinent, and almost non-verbal, needs help with everything. I know I am not the only person with family in such an advanced state of dementia who longs that one night she will fall asleep and not wake up - that would be a kindness to her....all so, so dreadful.

That's also why I urge you now to 'make the most' of the parent with dementia as to what they CAN do - not only to make their own quality of life as good as possible (and that yes includes NOT having the DP moaning at them and saying their life is over - have a little compassion for others please!)(though, of course, that is exactly what depression takes from one - the ability to care about anyone else except oneself in one's own misery - self-focus is the clinical term I believe, and it's one of the reasons I hate depression.....)

But for you and your siblings, now is the time to focus on what your NDP-with-dementia parent can do - share all the memories you can. Get out old photos and talk about them, identify people that soon they won't be able to, collect 'memories' and 'life stories' and so on - make memories of 'nice times now' that can still be had. I did this with my MIL as the dementia started off, and I'm so glad I did. You will be too, I'm sure.

PS - final thought, 'harsh' though this may sound, do you think your NDP would actually be 'happier' NOT living with the DP any more, if the DP is simply going to moan at them all the time????? Would they be better off being separated??? Horrid thought, but it might be true, or coming true????