Mom woke at 4 a.m. She was too restless to go back to sleep and she didn’t want to stay in bed and look at the spots on the ceiling. She shuffled around the house in her nightgown and bare feet. She made a cup of coffee and stared out the window into the dark until the sun came up. I heard her moving downstairs and went down to see what was wrong. She looked up at me and said, “It’s going to be a long day.” Se looked so hopeless so unhappy.
Depression can do that to you--make you feel that you are not needed by anyone--alone--forgotten. This is one of the most common mental health problems faced by older people. They find themselves feeling sad, empty, alone, and they don’t know why. Sometimes it is because they don’t feel that society needs them any longer. They will withdraw from friends, family, and all the activities they used to enjoy. Sometimes they will sit around all day in their nightgown or pajamas and robe, sleeping on and off.
Depression is more than just a sad feeling for the elderly. It can be a serious threat to their health. When an elderly person is depressed, they are more prone to illness and infections, and when they do get sick, they don’t recover as quickly.
As a caregiver, this can pose problems for you. You are already overwhelmed and exhausted by the added responsibilities and you may be feeling a little resentful about the heavy demands put upon you. You try to keep everyone else happy, but all your plans and fun activities must be put on hold. You may be feeling a little depressed yourself. Watch out for depression--it can sneak up on you fast. If you have been feeling constantly tired, or having difficulty sleeping, watch out. You may also be uninterested in the things that used to bring you pleasure. These are all clues that you may be depressed.