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Is it normal for someone in their 80's to be so pessimistic?

My 80 year old sister is in physically health just a bit forgetful. She's OK in her normal routine, but is very confused if anything changes. She refuses to see a doctor for anything medication refills or her annual health checkup. I worry about her mental state, she is very negative. Every conversation includes some variation of "I'm so old, who knows how long I will live". At Christmas she kept saying that it might well be her last Christmas, it's sad and depressing to be around her.Is this due to the memory loss, normal aging or could she have a problem with depression? Not that I could get her to see a doctor about dementia or depression but it might make it easier to deal with if I knew what was causing it.
Status: Open    Jan 14, 2016 - 03:25 PM

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Jan 19, 2016 - 10:58 AM

I'm afraid I can't help you with any medical information or diagnosis. But I have worked with a lot of older adults who exhibit a negative attitude. I figured out in a lot of cases it was because they were bored. Idle hands gave them a lot of time to dwell on the negative. If you can find some activities that she will do or projects she can help you with it might help. Be sure and ask how the 'project' is going, check on her progress and praise her often. Let her know how much she is helping you, so she will feel that what she is doing is imiportant and significant. I'm not sure about safety issues or her physical abilities, but if she is able, you might try having her cut out and sort coupons, address or stuff envelopes, make shopping lists, roll coins, etc Hope this helps! Good luck!

Jan 20, 2016 - 07:53 AM

In addition to the answer above, make her an "expert" at something. My father loved politics and the stock market before his dementia set in and he became pessimistic. So, when I would visit, I asked him his opinion on anything politics and stock related. I might push back a little (gosh knows we didn't agree on everything), but I would let him "win" and own the conversation (even if he got all his facts wrong). The next time I came, he'd have a little list going of things he was wanting to teach me or talk about on these two issues. Separately, I found giving him a journal and attached pen let him jot a LOT of things down that he wanted to remember.


Jan 23, 2016 - 06:26 AM

You don't say how old you are? Your sister may well be negative in a way that is new to you.
I'm in my 82nd year. I am not depressed, nor suicidal. The women in my family live a long time. . . from 86 to 97. I'm healthy, but I live with chronic back pain, and my vision is changing. Nouns escape, sometimes I forget what I was planning to say. The man I loved died almost 20 years ago. I wrote a novel last year. I love my own cooking. I enjoy playing board games, and chatting on facebook with my teen-age grandsons.

But shopping is difficult, and paying bills an annoyance. I do not like pharmaceuticals. I only deal with doctors who I know respect my opinion, and are honest with me. Is this possible with your sister?

We are all different, but here's what I am likely to say to my son and friends 10 years my junior: "Everyone has died." That's not negative, that's fact. The people I worked with, my lover, my dancing parter, friends my age, relatives my age or younger, are gone. It feels odd to be a survivor in the 21st Centruy, but it's not negative speech, just a stated fact, sometimes to the dismay of younger relatives. I've purposely made friends with people 10, 20, 30 years younger than myself, since I'd prefer not to outlive them. One of my sons has high-blood pressure, the other hasn't been to a doctor in over 20 years, so it is quite possible that I might outlive both of them. OR, I could fall over from an unknown cause next month. To say: "No one knows how long I will live", when I say it, is not negative, it's just truth. I declared Christ Mass to be over this year. No decorating, no mandatory gifts. We decorated my phony tree with objects unrelated to the season, plan to leave it up all year. We made fondue and played Upwords. That's the new thing, because I declared it, and my small family group was fine with it.

What I know is that there is a time of acceptance: I am old. and no-one knows how much longer I will live. That can look negative to others. Your sister might well need emotional help. Or she may just be stating facts you're not comfortable hearing. OR, she may just need you to join in the acceptance, without letting it bring you down, or affect your more positive point of view.

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