Is he being unfair?

Sarah’s dad has been struggling since his wife went into aged care.

Is he being unfair?
Image credit: Shutterstock

Q. Sarah
My dad is very lonely since my mum went into aged care and seems to have given up. He won’t wash, doesn’t eat well and is constantly on the phone to my sister and I complaining about how we never visit. This isn’t true as we take turns having him over at the weekend and each try to get to see him at least once a week. What can we do to make him see he’s being unfair?

A. It’s always frustrating to know that you're doing your very best to support someone and they never seem satisfied with your efforts. The trouble is, the more you try to defend your behaviour, the more he will complain. That’s because defensiveness actually weakens our position. Instead of trying to explain how much you are doing for your dad, try validating how he’s feeling. When he complains about how you never visit, try saying something like: I know you’re lonely Dad. It must be so hard now Mum’s not at home. He will probably say that he’d be less lonely if you came to visit more often, but resist the urge to point out that you and your sister are doing all that you can. Instead, you could respond by saying: You must wish we were around there every day. Hopefully, when he feels that you are hearing how lonely he is, he might be able to acknowledge your efforts. We are all better at seeing someone else’s point of view if our feelings are validated first. By all means remind him that you and your sister are seeing him as much as you can, but only after he has heard you acknowledging how he is feeling.

Jo Lamble


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    15th Jan 2014
    It may be that he is suffering from depression, albeit temporary. Consider, loss of lifelong partner, isolation, even the lack of daily interaction with familiar close partner. A visit to a doctor, perhaps short term medication or group contact. Sometimes we are too close, emotionally to be of help, and that is the role for trained professionals. NALAG may be of assistance as well. Jo
    Mrs Hedgehog
    17th Jan 2014
    Try to be patient. Work out a routine with your sister so that say you phone him on, say,Tuesdays and Thursdays and take him out on Saturday and she phones on Wednesday and Friday and takes him out on Sunday. When you go out make sure you keep up a constant chat with him, don't just take him out and leave him to sit silent in a chair and try to make the outings fun for him and tell him in advance what you are planning, so that he has something to look foward to.
    Quite a number of more elderly men have never done any cooking, cleaning, washing etc in their lives, so perhaps arranging for some help in that area might be nice, but do consult with him first before you arrange anything, and if he says "No" then accept it gracefully.
    I sometimes felt my Mum was demanding when she was alive, but now she's gone I miss her terribly and would sometimes love to have her phoning four of five times in one evening each time saying the same thing having forgotten she phoned ten minutes previously.
    18th Jan 2014
    Go around every day for a while - get him organised - he will soon become sick of you both & your own ways of trying to organise / take over his life.
    "trying to put both my feet into one shoe they are"
    18th Jan 2014
    Keep telling him you love him and bring up happy memories constantly. I am nowhere near there yet but my family of three adult children (two have partners, no grand kids yet!) never have time for me now unless it is to help them out (moving house or clean up before inspection of their rental properties then time is spent focusing of task at hand). I would prefer quality time now !! They get busy too and I realise this!. Often loneliness cannot be cured no matter what you do for them - I would never make my three feel guilty. But what will I be like as I age! This is a difficult one. You do your best to please others.Just keep on showing that love!
    Barbara Mathieson
    19th Jan 2014
    Your Dad now needs to join in with people of his own age. There are lots of groups of us around -does Dad still drive? He must have some interests-what are they ? Suggest (find out where these groups are in the community ) activities / people for him. Unfortunately we all have to change even us seniors and it can be difficult, but please persevere with /for him.

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