“Mom. Get up. This is crazy. It’s 2:30 in the afternoon and you’ve been in bed all day.” I was impatient with Mom’s unwillingness to get up. She wouldn’t even respond to me other than to repeat, “I’m tired. Please. Just let me sleep.”
I was getting desperate. She wasn’t eating or taking her meds. She had simply withdrawn from her daily routine. I admit, it was a bit boring, but, still. She needed to get up. She wasn’t sick.
Or was she?
It finally dawned on me that my mother, my always upbeat and “look on the bright side” mother, was struggling with depression. You could have said few things that would surprise me as much as that realization.
When her doctor confirmed my suspicion, I was ashamed. I had been so impatient with what I thought was just her being difficult. I had badgered her, bullied her and tried to guilt her into resuming a normal schedule. I wanted to crawl into a hole and pull it closed behind me.
Thankfully, my mom’s doctor assured me that many adult children miss the signs of depression in their parents and told me not to beat myself up over it.
Being a caregiver for an elderly parent is not something they teach you to do in school. There are now some decent support tools for those in that role, but at the time, I was not aware of them if they did exist.
Recognizing depression in the elderly starts with knowing the signs and symptoms. Depression red flags include:
• Abandoning or losing interest in hobbies/pastimes
• Social withdrawal and isolation
• Weight loss or loss of appetite
• Loss of self-worth (worries about being a burden, feelings of worthlessness, self-loathing)
• Increased use of alcohol or other drugs
• Fixation on death; suicidal thoughts or attempts
• Sleep disturbances; not sleeping, oversleeping, daytime sleepiness
As I review the list, Mom was evidencing four of them. But if you are providing care for someone elderly, even one of these should raise a red flag. And that means you need to take action. Don’t know where to start? Here are some great resources:
The most important thing is to get help. It’s hard to admit that Mom or Dad is struggling with an emotional/mental difficulty. We want them to be who we have always known them to be – but they’re not. It’s important to help them in being the best they can be now. So help them as much as possible, by championing not only their physical health, but their mental health, too.