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I'm sorry to hear about the state your father's in. I haven't had to address any of the issues you're facing, as my parents are still young and active. So, take my advice with your standard fifteen pound grain of salt.

My instinct in situations like these is to try to find some form of motivation or incentive for your father. I'm not sure what reward you could offer to your father for showering once a day. It sounds like there's very little he's looking for. But if I were you, in conversation with him, I'd dig around in search of something he wants in his life. Then offer to help him get it if he agrees to begin showering.

Often that approach is too transparent and the cleverness of depression can work around it. But one thing I've seen depression really struggle to overpower is the force of feeling needed. If there is someway to connect your father to someone, to make him feel needed, I believe that could make a real difference.

In psychologist circles, there's the classic case of a woman enduring severe depression in her final years. Her family sent a psychologist over and he asked her to scratch together some money and send flowers to a few of her relatives. The exchange that followed compelled her to withdraw funds from her savings accounts in order to send rose pogonias to family members, remaining friends, neighbors, local businesses, schools, churches, et cetera.

The conclusion was some savings money spent, but a tremendously enriched final three years of her life.

I offer the simple tale not to suggest that you encourage your father to start sending flowers, but rather to possibly inspire some creative thinking about he might be able -- even on a very superficial level -- to help his family, to feel connected to the world. It may be just a weekly phone call that you ask him to make to a grandchild who is having trouble in school. Or a very short letter you ask him to write to a nephew who is changing jobs. Or maybe some help he can provide you in thinking about what challenges face you in the week ahead.

My instincts are to believe that the more you can make him feel connected and needed -- again, even in very small ways -- the more he will take to this world, to caring for himself, and to looking forward to the days oncoming.

I hope this sparks an idea or two for you. Again, I'm out of my tiny little circle of expertise here, but I wanted to try to pitch in. Best of luck,

Tom Gardner

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