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How should I help my father and his wife?
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How should I help my father and his wife?

I live a 16 hour drive from my father and his wife. My father divorced my mother about 13 years ago. He spent about 10 years with many different women. Last year he remarried.

My father has suffered from depression for about 30 years. He is 70 years old. He is not currently taking medication or seeing a psychiatrist. Last weekend my father and his wife came to visit me and stayed in my home for three days. I was shocked at how he was treating his new wife. For example, he would not let her get her running shoes out of their vehicle when we were going for a walk because she didn't "plan ahead." He interrupted her and insulted her a few times. I did not get the opportunity to speak to her alone for very long, but she told me she was not allowed to take their car and leave the little village where they live. They have to plan to make trips to town (a half hour drive away), and when they take trips they go together. He purchases the groceries and rations many items. She is not allowed to see friends or go outside the village unless he says it is ok, and so she doesn't do it.

One thing that is disturbing is that his new wife doesn't see all of this as a problem. She kept saying to me, "it's all good." I just couldn't believe it and honestly didn't know what to say. She has a history of being in abusive relationships. What is the appropriate way to help them see that this pattern is unhealthy and abusive? I can't witness this and not say anything. They seem to think it is perfectly normal and fine.

Thank you.
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Dear daughter2249,

Thanks for posting your query.

I understand your concern and appreciate the effort that you have made to help someone in need.

As of now, your father has several symptoms like irritability, stubbornness, excessively planning ahead, possibly suspicion, a history of depression for 30 years and reluctance to seek appropriate treatment.

These symptoms are infrequently seen in depression alone and are possibly suggestive of other co-existing psychiatric issues.
I would suggest that you live with him for a few more days or visit him again whenever possible and persuade him to see a psychiatrist.
If there has been a dramatic change in behaviour or this dysfunction is leading severe social problems, I would suggest that you get him to consult a psychiatrist as soon as possible.

Given his long history of depression, it might be possible to convince him to visit his old psychiatrist again.

I hope I have answered your query. I shall be available for follow up queries.

Thank you for using MedHelp's "Ask an Expert" Service, where we feature some of world's renowned medical experts in their fields. Millions have benefitted from our service to get personalized advice for them and for their loved ones.

Best Regards,
Dr. Ashish Mittal
If this woman is of sound mind and sound body, it is up to her to make this decision. Unless she comes to you and asks for help, or unless there is a real violent act and there are police involved, you need to stay out of it.  I know this to be true as I intervened twice with my mother abusing the men she was with, and when all said and done, they went back to her and they both wouldn't talk to me!  It IS your problem, but then again, it ISN'T.
I agree with you. What I am thinking of doing is simply saying to them both that my father's behavior is abusive and I don't like it. I'd like a doctor's opinion on whether the behaviors I have described are examples of abuse. If so it would help me be more comfortable in saying it that way. I really don't like people being treated like that in my home. Also, my Dad would like to go on vacations with us. I don't want to spend a week of my vacation time being subjected to this, nor do I think it is good for my kids to be around it very much. Personally I also think my Dad should see a psychiatrist and my step-mother should seek counseling. But I am not a mental health expert and I'd like to know what an expert would say about the behavior I have described. I don't think my father would get physically violent but I really can't be sure. They both like to drink and I don't spend a lot of time around them to really know.
Your father's behavior is abusive and controlling.  Near the end of your posting I was alarmed to see they both drink.  Your father is 70 and with the long history of depression, he could have many co-existing conditions, such as alcoholism and dementia (early).  I would not doubt there highly likely is physical abuse.  Physical abuse follows closely after verbal abuse.

It is hard to get help because HIPPA prevents medical personnel from discussing his and her health issues.  

You may be able to get help by calling Adult Protective Services.  I do not know how it will turn out as these services vary state to state.  At least you know you will have done what you can.

Also, the wife cannot be helped if she does not recognize there is a problem or if she does not want help.  I am sorry you have to witness this painful situation.
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