How much to raise the illness as an issue if he doesn't

Q: Hello from Ireland - my Dad has spent the last 2 mths in hospital - he is 79 and was suffering from Hypo mania - the episode lasted about 4 months - he seems very stable now. Now that he is home should we ever address his illness with him - or what is the best approach. Any guideline ideas on what we can do. Up to now he has spoken very vaguely about it - like he knows what went on but doesnt want to go into too much detail. I would welcome any suggestions/information you may have Many thanks

Dear Ms. D' --
Ah, that's a tough one.  I'm not sure, as long as he's willing to stay with the treatment that got him better, that you need to make more of an issue of it.  The reason I say it's a tough one is that I've seen a lot of people cope with having this illness in a lot of different ways.  When the coping interferes with treatment, we have a problem (boy is that ever common).  But if it doesn't, I'm usually reluctant to go poking about.  I might keep a closer watch than usual.  I suppose you could try raising it a few times, sort of matching his vague with your vague?  And talk about resources you've found useful understanding what went on, and see what he does with that?  I suppose you could even something like  "Dad, it seems like when I talk about what happened, which helps me, that doesn't seem to sit very well with you; but I'm still trying to sort the whole thing out.  I'm going to keep thinking out loud about it for a while yet.  Let me know if you need me to stop.  As long as you're okay, I'll go along with that if you need it that way".  We'd call that gently assertive, in my trade.  But you'll have to be the judge about how far to go.  Good luck in the process. 

Dr. Phelps


Published February, 2001