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How can I help dad who’s become pessimistic and dependent after his stroke?

Much as we would love to help overcome all the challenges of ageing, we do have to accept that some situations can’t be completely fixed. David’s dad is struggling after a stroke but is resistant to change. Dr Lesley Trenner offers advice on supporting older parents who are facing unwelcome changes in their lives.

Dear Lesley

I love the When They Get Older website! I just discovered it, but I’ve looked over loads of articles in that time.

I wonder if you can help me help my parents?

My dad (69) has been retired for two years and had a stroke last year. He’s very pessimistic about everything and becoming more and more dependent on my mum, who is just a little younger. I want to help them appreciate what they have got and enjoy having the freedom – because I’d certainly appreciate some now.

The articles on your website are good but I feel he would reject any new ideas. Therapy would probably help him deal with anxiety but he might not be receptive. I’d like to help him discover a new purpose that motivates him to learn and stay active.

Do you have any suggestions?



Dear David

What a difficult situation for you all. Your parents are both relatively young and should be enjoying retirement. Yet your dad has suffered a stroke and become anxious and your mum is now a carer. They are probably both in a state of shock and your dad may also be depressed at the way things have turned out.

You say he may not be amenable to therapy or a short course of counselling, although this could be of benefit to him. Without wanting to stereotype, older people can see therapy or counselling as a sign of weakness, or just don’t want ‘strangers’ to know their business. Older men can find it especially hard to talk about their feelings.

However, if you think your father would be more amenable to reading, the Stroke Association https://www.stroke.org.uk/ has various useful publications, including fact sheets on leisure activities and holidays after a stroke, and a magazine. I do understand that he might not be receptive to new ideas quite yet, but these might be useful to you and your mother as well.

I certainly think you need to take account of your own welfare in this situation.

It’s clear that you are concerned about your parents and want to be a supportive son. In that role you would like to find a way of fixing this problem. You would perhaps like them to make the most of what they do have, to think positively, and of course it would make their lives so much easier if they could do so. It’s natural for you to feel this way, but in reality it may not be within your remit to fix. The Stroke Association also has information about behaviour and emotional changes after a stroke which you may find useful to read.

Maybe you would even benefit from some counselling or coaching yourself? This could be a good way to talk about any frustration that you feel, come to terms with the situation, and then perhaps find ways of regaining some freedom for yourself.

What you can do is listen. This may be as much as your parents need and can handle at this stage, until your father comes to terms with the reality of the situation. You haven’t said too much about your mum’s state of mind, but she may also benefit from the opportunity to talk.

Depending on how severe the stroke was, your father may gradually feel stronger, and then you can ask him questions about how he could move forward, and help him put those ideas into practice. In time you may find a way to make changes together, with your father being more open to practical suggestions around making the most of his life as it is now.

Best wishes


Dr Lesley Trenner is an eldercare coach with extensive qualifications and experience in life coaching. Lesley provides one-to-one help for people who are struggling to cope with the ’emotional rollercoaster’ of eldercare or balance caring responsibilities with a  busy career. You can talk to Lesley via Zoom or on the phone. Email Lesley or call 07919 880 250 for a free introductory chat. You can also visit her Facebook page.

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