Q: My Mum is 82 and is starting to become a bit confused. She is very lively and active but has started to worry about the smallest of things. She lives on her own and copes admirably; she cooks, shops and cleans for herself. She reads regularly and attends over-50s events. Her brain is sharp as a tack, but she keeps stressing over trivialities. For example, she gets very upset about things that happened 50 to 70 years ago. Things that can’t be changed, conversations or actions by people long dead. I have asked her to get counselling but she says its too late in life. She obsesses about small things like a lost glove or getting up four hours early for a doctors appointment. I’m afraid that shes going to over-exert herself. Her sister rings her often but she is more of a depressing influence than a help. How can I help her?
A: Its great your mum is active and being mentally stimulated. I think it is natural that more importance is attached to minutiae in later life. As long as your mum’s health is good and she is not lonely, then she is allowed a grumble or two about yesteryear. If you feel that she is becoming confused rather than just repeating herself, then you may want to accompany her to the GP’s to ensure that her mental state is tiptop. If she is endangering herself or becoming forgetful in more practical ways such as forgetting keys, getting lost, forgetting to eat etc, then this is obviously an urgent matter. There may even be a physical reason why she is forgetful and this needs to be addressed asap. If she frets over recent lost items she is no doubt worried for her own state of health. Counselling can help at any age. As life begins to slow down there is more time to consider the complexities of getting to that age. Whilst being of a generation that has always ‘just got on with it’, it would be good closure to examine and understand what prompted someone’s actions or words, even decades later. If someone ever finds out how to stop or understand painful events of the past resurfacing from the subconscious please let me know. Your mum may be reverting to her role in the family as a child when she speaks to her sister, especially if it was a strained relationship. This would also explain why she is harking back to the past. Maybe just remind your mum that they didn’t always see eye to eye? My mum always swore that she would do as Jenny Joseph’s poem “Warning” suggests, to “wear purple with a red hat that doesn’t go” and generally misbehave. Old Age should be a time to stop caring what other people think and enjoy yourself. Anyone who has their health is very lucky.