As many as seven million Americans, in fact, probably had a pretty “blue” Christmas this past season according to estimates from the Centers from Disease Control and Prevention.
I have written before about how many chronic conditions disproportionately affect the over 65 crowd, and depression is high on the list. In fact, 65+ year olds comprise about 16% of all suicides in America, so to label their Christmas blue is a bit of an understatement. Depression, often associated with loss, finds older adults to be something of a perfect storm as an age segment. As one ages, there are the inevitable losses in terms of just not being able to do what one used to do easily. And the job that used to define a person’s success and image is now history. And any number of physical illnesses can rob a person of their vitality. Cognitive decline also warps the lens through which older adults may view the world around them …a far cry from the proverbial “rose-colored lenses” of an optimist.
Older adults are more likely to have suffered the loss of a loved one such as a spouse, friend or even son or daughter. That, combined with the other physical losses both shrink their social circles and reduce their desire to even get out of their homes. They become isolated which only reinforces any depression they may already have from their losses. And the losses accumulate.
But it is crucial to remember that depression is not just an inevitable part of growing older. It is not a “normal” part of the aging process. When you gathered with your older loved ones over the holidays or spoke or Skyped with them did you notice any signs of:
- Crankiness or nervousness
- Lack of focus or concentration
- Too much or too little sleep time
- Too much or too little appetite
- Vague digestive issues or pains
- Suicidal thoughts or comments?
Act now on any of these signs and symptoms of depression. Most depressed people don’t speak up…they simply accept the way they are feeling and slip another notch into their malaise. There is, in fact, a stigma that many associate with “mental illness” of any sort that may fuel their resistance to help. Insist that they see a professional, perhaps their clergy if not a professional trained in mental illness. Giving them a happier new year would be a wonderful belated gift for the holiday just past. And since this is the 21st century, there is a text hotline. Just text 741741 for help.
Charlotte Bishop is an Aging Life Care Advisor, Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Care Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago. She also is the co-author of How Do I Know You? A Caregiver’s Lifesaver for Dealing with Dementia.