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Depressed elder worries about depressed child

Dear Amy: My 83 year old widowed mother is depressed and I don’t know how to help.

She refuses to see a therapist and sees drugs as a crutch. She has always been a very private person, is generally distrustful of doctors, and would never leave her shields to a stranger.

I told her I’m not a therapist, but lately she’s started confiding things in me that even as an adult, I shouldn’t hear.

Depression runs in the family. I’ve seen a therapist in the past and am on medication, so I understand and sympathize, but it’s getting to the point where I dread seeing her, and yet I know I’m her only lifeline.

How can I help her?

– Worried

Dear Concerned: People sometimes only begin to reveal long-repressed or repressed traumas very late in life, when – for various reasons (medical, emotional and cognitive) – their defense mechanisms no longer function. Research among World War II survivors has shown that the strong and stoic “Greatest Generation” experienced nightmares, remembered traumatic events and suffered from depression very late in life.

Quoting from a study: “In aging individuals, the classic symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may not be manifest, yet significant distress can occur as memories of traumatic experiences are reawakened.”

Therapy helps. Medication helps. And yet many older people resist the idea of ​​treatment like your mother’s.

My first suggestion is that you immediately resume in-person therapy (or telehealth) to deal with this burden, which is a trigger for you.

I encourage you to find healthy ways to be open and present with your mother while resisting the temptation to try to provide answers or your own kind of therapy for her.