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On-Line Kick Depression Party! Come, Celebrate!

love heartIt takes a village to kick depression.

Come to the Party!

On-Line Kick Depression Party

suggested by our readers.

Open to anyone who has or has lived with someone with depression.

Let’s celebrate by sharing with one another the good stuff that has happened to us.

Let’s celebrate the times we have kicked depression,

even if it is just a tiny glimpse of the good life.

When: August 15th

Where: Depression’s Collateral Damage Blog at https://depressionscollateraldamage.wordpress.com/

What’s taking place:   A sharing of all the positive times that depression has disappeared, whether for a moment or for a length of time.

Write a comment on what happened or any thoughts you have about kicking depression.

Send it to depressedlovedone@gmail.com before August 10th

We will post them on August 15th.

And please, between now and then,

pass this onto your friends

on facebook, tumblr, twitter,or those in your address book or any other place.

We want this party to reach people

so they will all know that depression can be overcome in some way, shape or form.

And together we can kick depression.

Let’s get that support going and growing.

Let’s beat the stigma.

Come, kick depression with us.

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The Stigma of Hearing Aids and Other Such Stigmas

I have been spending time in the hospital these past days – not as a patient but rather the advocate for my husband as he grapples with might be a reaction to medication. Lots of different people have come to visit – a good thing as it was a visual for my husband to affirm the fact that he has friends.

Also what has come to my attention is the number of unconscious stigmas different areas of our society have. For instance, the hearing aid. It is okay for a young child to have a hearing aid to assist them in hearing but it is not okay (especially if you are the person who is asked to wear one) for an older person to wear one. Apparently it is a sign of old age and is not to be tolerated.

It is okay for a person with muscle problems or a disease that affects their gait to use a cane but it is not okay for an older person to use a cane to navigate icy and dangerous walkways.

Many of these stigmas spring from ignorance and pride and a misunderstanding of old age.

The list could go on and on and tacked onto every item is the stigma of getting old.
And this dangerous stigma impacts heavily on whether an older person seeks treatment for depression or whether they hide the fact, claiming that everything is okay.

Depression at any age is an illness. It doesn’t mean something is lacking in the person. It doesn’t mean that you should be able to handle it yourself. Much like the hearing aid, the cane and other things that people use to make their quality of life better, dealing with depression at any age means that the illness will be treated and hopefully cured or brought under control.

Someone who visited reflected this weekend that young people who get cancer or another illness see it as something to be dealt with and to be gotten out of the way so they can get on with their lives. On the other hand, they said, old people who get sick just see it as something to be endured and, all too often, die from.

We need to erase the stigma of old age. We need to erase the stigma of depression. Awareness to the fact that we create these unconscious stigmas should help, but aging people themselves have to become aware of the fact of the valuable and needed contributions they can make to the world, making the necessary adjustments so that is possible.

And even more importantly, the rest of society has to recognize the wisdom and wealth of those older people regardless of the canes and the hearing aids….and the depression.

– Bernadette

Depression + Aging = What Do I Do Now?

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Care giving for someone who is depressed and who also is aging is indeed difficult.  Depression alone reeks havoc on a person’s mind and emotions.  Add the specter of aging and things really can go amuck. 

Depression can cause a person to question his or her life and wonder what could have been done differently.  Or they can bemoan the fact that they didn’t accomplish anything and because of depression, did not become all they wished to have become.  

Add aging to that and those thoughts are further complicated by thinking about the years that are left. Often they don’t see it as a positive experience and instead bemoan that there is so little time left and that death will mean being alone and unloved.

And as different abilities change or disappear, the depressed one who is aging will often think in terms of only the loss – I don’t have the balance I once had; I can’t get up and down like I used to; I can’t run anymore. It is a dismal picture that is painted.    

The non-depressed aging person on the other hand might look to acknowledging the loss but moving on to addressing how things have to change. I don’t have the balance I once had but I can practice and improve the balance I do have. I might not be able to get up and down like I used to but signing up for the yoga class might be able to help me do better in that regard. I can’t run but if I use the treadmill and walk in my neighborhood, I bet I could work up my speed.   

So much of depression is something that cannot be controlled entirely.  But there are opportunities for depressed individuals to approach certain situations with a good attitude.  This is so important when you add aging to the mix.  As care givers we need to remind the depressed individual that there are alternatives, that doors can be opened to new ways of doing things no matter our age. 

When we attempt this approach, we might not see a change in behavior very often but when it does happen, it is good for the depressed person and the caregiver as well.  And sometimes even growing old doesn’t appear so scary. 

– Bernadette

A Different Empty Nest

A few day ago Amy wrote a post about empty nests and depression.  I know some of the surprising road that she will be going down.  Empty nesting is rarely an easy deal.  Every parent approaches it in a different way, and with depression in the mix, it becomes a gigantic crapshoot.

Now twelve years with my children on their own,  I find I still miss them, more on certain days than others. When I get to see them it is indeed wonderful, especially enjoying the people they have become and the friendship we have adult to adult. I have found time to pursue a great many interests from café ownership to writing to gardening, but by the same token, I have found it difficult to weather the ups and downs of my husband’s depression and the surprising things he says and does to deal with our empty nest.

Sometimes he becomes my new kid.  He becomes so needy and wants to be the center of attention –  the depression talking.  He will sometimes alienate in an effort to fill a need he has – again springing from the depression.  He makes family gatherings difficult by not participating….again the depression.

Now we are entering a new stage of empty nestdom where he has to face the fact that he is getting older and that has caused its own set of challenges when complicated by depression. He can’t see the value of exercise…after all he is getting old.  He feels his body is falling apart…..see previous sentence.  He’s always referring to the fact that he “only”  has x number of years left and woe is he!  He continues to look at everything as “having done that” and “nothing new under the sun.”  So much of this is caused by his depression.

Empty nest is survivable even with depression present.  I don’t, however, look forward to the problems that aging and depression will bring.  I faced it with my father.  I’ve faced it with good older friends.  I’ve faced it as a child with severely depressed aunts and uncles.  But I have never faced aging in a depressed partner.  What’s around that bend?  Is it a different kind of empty nest?  More later.

– Bernadette

Loss in a Time of Aging

Loss in a Time of Aging

I think one of the biggest things about growing older (and I’m into my 6th decade), is the losses you experience. When I think of the losses both big and small, I can’t help but understand that depression is always lurking around the corner. When will the next loss be too much to bear?

Looking back on my childhood, I remember my father spending a lot of time on a chair, staring at the television, after having come home from work. I often wondered why he wasn’t like the other dads who did stuff with their kids or who worked around the house. I always chalked up that to the fact that he had a heart condition. Looking back, I wonder if it was instead depression as a result of all the losses he experienced.

He had experienced losses early in life which he dealt with. He couldn’t go to college because his mother decreed that the money he had saved would go instead to educate his younger brother in the priesthood. On the heels of that his favorite sister died at 14 as a result of appendicitis. He worked in a job that didn’t hold much chance for advancement but with eight children to feed, he probably felt stuck.

When he entered his 50s after two rounds of heart attacks and strokes, he lost the ability to walk and to talk. The first time round he learned both again, but was faced with having to make some life changes as a result. After the second round, he bade goodbye to the ability to walk alone and to run and to talk clearly.

During these times, my mother and father both had to move from the house they called home and after a series of rental places, ended up in senior citizen housing. Their full life with cherished books and music and mementos had to be pared down to fit into a two room apartment.

The list could go on. Loss was something they faced daily. Big and small losses. Even in the strongest of us, loss takes a toll. And probably one of the biggest losses is that of the ability to be understood in this time of change. Very few of us understand what it is like to be old and to be facing these mounting losses. We think we know but do we really? I wasn’t aware with my dad. I wasn’t with my mom. And sometimes I feel like, even though I struggles with loss, I’m not even aware of it in those around me.

Loss is hard and given the right circumstances, it can open the door to depression. And if we as caregivers are oblivious to loss, we might not recognize depression either when it happens in those older ones we love.

– Bernadette

Depression, Suicide, and Aging – Not a Love Story

Recently in the Times-Tribune of Scranton, Pennsylvania there was an article by Kathy Wallace, a suicide prevention specialist.  An official from a local hospital, Lehigh Valley, described the murder-suicide of an elderly couple as “a love story.”  Ms. Wallace took them to task and rightly so because, in her words, “this is an injustice to everyone who has lost someone to suicide.  We don’t know the people involved and they may have loved each other very much but it is still wrong to romanticize this terribly sad tragedy

However, we as a society too often romanticize people ending their lives.  Whether it is Romeo and Juliet or the couple from West Side Story, the act is not one of love but rather one of tragedy.  How can we get into the minds of someone who commits suicide?  We don’t know what went into their decision to end their life.  We do know, though, that it is not weak character or a selfish decision that causes suicide but rather a brain that has undergone changes due to depression or other mental illness.  The brain tells these individual who are in a great deal of psychological pain that suicide is the only choice

And so looking at this elderly couple, were they alone in life or did they have a family?  Were they aware of the decision they made or was the decision compromised by an already existing depression in one or the other?  Did they both see this as the only way to stop the pain?

We know that older adults are at higher risk of suicide but it is not always or only because of all the losses older adults face.  Increasing the risk is the inability of others to identify and then give appropriate care to depressed older people.  Thus the rate of suicide in the elderly only increases.

Loss is a given as we age.  There are many small and large losses that cause extreme sadness and grief.  Sleep disturbances, mood swings and other signs of physical and emotional illness might be part of aging but these same signs could be symptoms of depression.  . Older adults can go through sleep disturbances, mood swings, and other signs of physical and emotional aging, but these signs could also be symptoms of depression.

Ms. Wallace urges in her article that “if you see unusual changes or know that family members or friends are going through serious loss, isolating themselves, or stating a perception of themselves as being a burden, please ask them how they are coping. Physicians, please ask your older patients a few simple questions during their visits about how they are doing emotionally. It could stop a tragedy.”

Amen, sister!

-Bernadette