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Archive for the ‘Aging’ Category

6 Little-Known Signs of Depression in Older Adults

SOURCE:  Kristen Sturt

Depression affects over two million people 65-plus; learn how to identify the signs, and how to get help.

Your husband might be depressed, and you might not know it. Or, maybe it’s your sister or your mother.

Maybe it’s even you.

Even though upwards of two million Americans age 65-plus experience depression, the majority of seniors—68 percent, according to a National Mental Health Association survey—know little about it. One big reason is that signs are easy to overlook, since they’re frequently confused with other ailments and changes that come naturally with aging.

“Often in older adults, when they’re depressed, you don’t see high levels of crying and sadness you might see in a younger adult,” says Dr. Sarah Yarry, Ph.D., a Licensed Clinical Psychologist specializing in gerontology. “You see it more often as withdrawal. It’s apathy, hopelessness, loss of appetite and interest.” Older adults regularly demonstrate physical symptoms, as well—particularly aches and pains—and when they’re not addressed along with the underlying neurological issues, depression is more likely to linger, and more likely to come back.

Depression comes with serious personal costs, too: It’s correlated with a higher risk of dying early from certain illnesses and is a major factor in suicides. That’s why it’s imperative to recognize the signs—even the lesser-known ones—before it’s too late. Here, then, are some common, but little-known indications of depression in older adults.

1. Joint and back pain

As we age, some pain is to be expected, and it doesn’t have to come with depression. That said, the connection between pain and depression can’t be ignored—especially if the pain is chronic, meaning it lasts more than a few months. Back aches and joint pain are commonly reported signs. One 2015 study in the journal Arthritis even found that about 12 percent of those with hip or knee osteoarthritis were depressed, versus about 6.6 percent of the general population. What’s more, “each additional symptomatic joint was associated with a 19 percent increase in the odds of self-reported depression.” Research shows that pain and depression is a chicken-egg scenario, too; the discomfort contributes to the depression, which can then intensify the agony. Physically painful illnesses, from stroke to multiple sclerosis, can exacerbate depression, too.

2. Cognitive impairment

While our mental abilities are expected to decline somewhat with age, depression can do a number on memory, focus, attentiveness, and even speech and movement. In fact, one small 2004 study found that more than half of participants suffering from late-life depression had significant problems with processing information and executive function (decision making, reason, etc.).

This mental cloudiness is frequently confused with dementia. As opposed to a degenerative condition like Alzheimer’s, however, “The confusion comes from lack of energy and apathy,” says Dr. Yarry. “It takes so much effort with them because they’re depressed.” This makes diagnosis crucial, since treating depression can improve sharpness.

3. Chest pain

Heart disease and depression often go hand in hand; depressed people show more signs of coronary illness, and people suffering from coronary illness are more likely to be depressed. Two recent studies support this:

  • A 2010 study in Heart Views found that chest pain patients demonstrated “more than triple” the rate of depression of the general population.
  • A 2015 study found that newly depressed angina patients “reported more angina and physical limitations” than those who were not depressed.

Depression apparently makes surviving coronary disease more difficult, too; depressed heart failure patients, for example, are four times as likely to die early. Part of this may be chemical, part if it is because depressed people may be less motivated to take good care of themselves. Either way, chest pain like angina can be an indicator of depression.

4. Irritability

In addition to melancholy, older adults suffering from depression may express grouchiness, increased anger, or even open hostility, all of which can be magnified by the use of alcohol (also tied to depression). Part of the reason for this is cultural. “It’s more appropriate to express depression as irritability rather than sadness, because that’s what’s acceptable in that generation,” says Dr. Yarry. “It’s the accepted way of expressing emotion.” Other feelings that might indicate depression: Increased fear, anxiety, guilt, and loss of hope.

5. Headaches

Though it’s not widely known, there’s a strong, long-established tie between senior depression and headaches. For example, in 1999, the journal Pain published a survey of 1,421 Chinese seniors that found those with frequent, severe, or migraine headaches were likelier to be depressed. Migraines are especially correlative; a 2008 study of migraine patients aged 50-plus discovered that nearly half showed “mild-to-moderate depressive symptoms.”  Like joint and chest pain, depression may exacerbate headaches, while headaches can contribute to depression.

6. Gastrointestinal issues

As we age, we internalize our psychological issues in more ways than one, and depression may have some pretty serious effects on our guts. Nausea, constipation, and digestive problems are common, as are appetite and weight changes. Depressed older adults may drop pounds and slow their eating overall, though some may go the other direction and gain weight, too.

If you suspect someone you know is suffering from depression—or you, yourself are experiencing symptoms—see a medical professional as soon as possible. “Bring them to a family doctor and get an evaluation,” says Dr. Yarry, who also suggests seeing a mental health expert whose focus is in treating older people. “Talk to a geriatric psychologist that specializes in depression issues.”

For more information about depression and older adults, consult one of these resources—and remember that there’s always help.

 

Prescription Drug Abuse Among Older Adults May Be Difficult To Detect

SOURCE:  Adapted from an article by Joy Mali/Lifehack

Prescription drug abuse may not be as noticeable as other forms of substance abuse, but it still has very dangerous consequences. Even though a doctor may have prescribed a drug, it is still a chemical substance that can cause mental, physical, and emotional issues if incorrect or more frequent doses are taken.

Addiction does happen among seniors, and it is often undetected because caregivers and loved ones do not know the signs of prescription drug abuse among this age group.

What are the most commonly abused drugs?

Senior drug abuse typically falls into a few categories of medication that are frequently prescribed to seniors for various health conditions. Opioids are the most commonly abused type of prescription drug, and oxycodone, Vicodin, morphine, Percocet, and fentanyl are all addictive. Opioids are prescribed for seniors who are dealing with pain from surgery, arthritis, or other conditions.

Another common type of abused drug are stimulants, such as Ritalin or Adderall. Older adults are prescribed stimulants for narcolepsy and other disorders. Other frequently abused prescription drugs are benzodiazepines, such as Valium, Xanax, and Klonopin. Benzodiazepines are regularly prescribed for conditions such as anxiety and insomnia, yet they can be extremely habit forming.

What are the dangers of prescription drug abuse?

Drug abuse is particularly harmful to seniors because of their fragile health. Often, a medicine that is supposed to cure a minor health issue can eventually be abused, causing a potentially fatal health problem. The number of opioid-related deaths among seniors has increased sharply in the last ten years because it is easy to accidentally overdose on this type of medication. If a senior becomes dependent on benzodiazepines, they may have seizures once they stop taking the medication. Other forms of drug abuse can cause heart problems, organ failure and strokes.

How is senior drug dependency detected?

One of the main issues with the prescription drug abuse epidemic among seniors is that older adults do not show typical signs of drug dependency. If any behavior changes are observed, do not assume that they are merely caused by older age. It is important to seek medical help if an elderly loved one exhibits the following signs:

  • Trouble walking or poor balance
  • Repeatedly losing or misplacing medication
  • Demanding narcotic prescriptions for minor health problems
  • Sudden lack of hygiene and poor personal appearance
  • Seeming sleepy and disoriented
  • Poor vision with inability to read prescription instructions
  • Sudden weight loss and lack of appetite
  • Drastic personality alterations or extreme mood swings
  • No longer interested in socialization

Should seniors attend a treatment center?

Older people can become addicted to prescription medication just like anyone else and should receive treatment just like anyone else. Modern medical care makes it possible for seniors to live happy and healthy lives. It is therefore imperative for an older person to get the help they need to recover. At a prescription drug treatment center, they can receive assistance detoxing from the drug and learn how to cope with addiction. If medication is still required for a medical condition, a person can talk to their doctor about other, less addictive options.

Wrapping Up:

With more research illustrating the prevalence of substance abuse among senior citizens and the effectiveness of targeted treatment options, there is hope for families of aging loved ones concerned for their elderly loved one’s health and safety. Caregivers should be aware of the risk factors and potential warning signs to address suspected substance abuse as soon as it’s recognized so that treatment interventions can be discussed with clinicians as soon as possible.

Are You Caught in the Sandwich Generation?

SOURCE: iMom/Dana Hall McCain

The American population is aging, and this means a rise in the number of adults caught in what researchers call the sandwich generation—those who are caring for aging parents while still caring for their own children. Nurturing loved ones on both ends of your life, all of whom have major needs, is emotionally and physically draining. It can also throw a wrench into your financial planning.

How can you cope with such a heavy load without cracking?

First of all, take comfort in the fact that you’re not alone. Around 1 in 8 Americans age 40 to 60 is caring for an aging family member while raising a child. But you will be forced to make choices about priorities, learn to delegate responsibility, and accept that you won’t be perfect at both jobs every single day. Cutting yourself some slack may be the most important key to preventing burnout while you’re sandwiched in between.

Take a break from volunteering.

We love volunteers! They make every school, church, and community a better place. However, if you’re pulling double duty as a caregiver, you have very little margin in your schedule. Don’t feel guilty about saying no to some or all of the volunteer opportunities that come your way for a season. A time will come when your responsibilities shift again and you’ll be able to give more to the outside world and causes you hold dear.

Train your older children to pitch in.

In the not-too-distant past, it was common for three or more generations of a family to live together as grandparents aged. As a consequence, older children were expected to contribute more fully to the running of the household: caring for younger siblings, helping with chores, and taking more responsibility for their own needs. Even though current culture typically expects less of tweens and teens, they are capable of so much more! Delegate more tasks to them and the whole family will benefit.

Recruit your siblings to help with aging parents.

Many times the care of an older parent falls to one adult child more than the others. Sometimes, it’s simply because the other siblings don’t know what to do. If you find yourself in the role of chief caregiver, talk with your siblings about ways they can contribute to the effort. If they live nearby, it may be hands-on help. If they live further away, it might be by contributing resources toward hiring more professional help. Make sure they’re aware of what the specific needs are and how they can meet them.

Let go of perfectionism.

If you’re in the sandwich years, it might be a good time to lower the bar on some negotiable areas of life. Simplify your holiday routine from decorations to gift-giving. Relax if the house isn’t as tidy as it used to be. Don’t freak out if you gain five pounds. All of these things can be tightened up again when time permits. For now, just roll with it.

Give yourself an outlet.

This may be the hardest of our suggestions, because it requires time—time you likely feel you don’t have. But allowing yourself a bit of alone time regularly to decompress is vital. Prioritize it so that you have that opportunity to recharge your own batteries and enable yourself to serve everyone else.

Communicate clearly with your spouse.

The sandwich season can put a lot of pressure on a marriage. Make a conscious effort to check in with each other frequently to just say, “How are we doing?” It will give each of you the chance to express where you could use more help, and will provide a chance to strategize about how to accomplish the top priorities.

Accept help from friends.

Just like your siblings can help with the parents, your mom friends are often glad to help out with your kids. Take them up on an offer to drive carpool for you when needed or drop your kid at home after sports practice. Every little bit helps!

Aging: Accepting the Changes

SOURCE:  Scotty Smith/The Gospel Coalition

A Prayer for Accepting the Changes that Come with Aging

Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you. Isa. 46:4(NIV)

The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. They are planted in the house of the Lord; they flourish in the courts of our God. They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green, to declare that the Lord is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him. Psalm 92:12-15 (ESV)

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 2 Cor. 4:16 (NIV)

Dear heavenly Father, a brief conversation with aging friends yesterday reminded me of the inevitable—we’re all getting older.

And with the increase of years, comes changes over which we have little, or no control. Those changes are either going to drive us to you; or to denial, self-absorbing sadness, or foolish ways of medicating our pain and fears. I choose option #1.

Thank you for your promise to sustain us—when our energy is abating; to carry us—when we cannot carry as much as we used to, or even carry ourselves; and to rescue us—when we get entangled in ways of thinking and choosing that contradict your great love for us in Jesus.

Father, thank you for the promise that age doesn’t preclude flourishing and fruitfulness. By your Spirit and grace, keep us ever full of “sap and green”. You are our Rock and righteousness—our stability and standing in grace are inviolate.

Though outwardly we are “wasting away”, we will not lose heart—in fact, we will thrive in heart; for you will bring to completion the good work you began in us. As our eyesight grows dimmer, let us see the beauty of Jesus with increasingly clarity. As our hearing gets fainter, let us hear your voice louder than ever, declaring us to be your beloved children of grace—in whom you delight, and for whom you’ve prepared an eternity beyond anything we can hope or imagine.

So very Amen we gratefully pray, in Jesus’ triumphant and tender name.

“In our dying hour, Christ lives.”

SOURCE:  J.C. Ryle/Tolle Lege

“The day may come when after a long fight with disease, we shall feel that medicine can do no more, and that nothing remains but to die. Friends will be standing by, unable to help us. Hearing, eyesight, even the power of praying, will be fast failing us. The world and its shadows will be melting beneath our feet. Eternity, with its realities, will be looming large before our minds.

What shall support us in that trying hour? What shall enable us to feel, ‘I fear no evil’? (Psalm 23:4.) Nothing, nothing can do it but close communion with Christ. Christ dwelling in our hearts by faith,—Christ putting His right arm under our heads,—Christ felt to be sitting by our side,—Christ can alone give us the complete victory in the last struggle.

Let us cleave to Christ more closely, love Him more heartily, live to Him more thoroughly, copy Him more exactly, confess Him more boldly, follow Him more fully. Religion like this will always bring its own reward. Worldly people may laugh at it. Weak brethren may think it extreme. But it will wear well. At even[ing] time it will bring us light. In sickness it will bring us peace. In the world to come it will give us a crown of glory that fadeth not away.

The time is short. The fashion of this world passeth away. A few more sicknesses, and all will be over. A few more funerals, and our own funeral will take place. A few more storms and tossings, and we shall be safe in harbour. We travel towards a world where there is no more sickness,—where parting, and pain, and crying, and mourning, are done with for evermore.

Heaven is becoming every year more full, and earth more empty. The friends ahead are becoming more numerous than the friends astern. ‘Yet a little time and He that shall come will come, and will not tarry.’ (Heb. 10:37.) In His presence shall be fulness of joy. Christ shall wipe away all tears from His people’s eyes. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is Death. But he shall be destroyed. Death himself shall one day die. (Rev. 20:14.)

In the meantime let us live the life of faith in the Son of God. Let us lean all our weight on Christ, and rejoice in the thought that He lives for evermore. Yes: blessed be God! Christ lives, though we may die. Christ lives, though friends and families are carried to the grave. He lives who abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light by the Gospel.

He lives who said, ‘O death, I will be thy plagues: O grave, I will be thy destruction.’ (Hos. 13:14.) He lives who will one day change our vile body, and make it like unto His glorious body. In sickness and in health, in life and in death, let us lean confidently on Him. Surely we ought to say daily with one of old, ‘Blessed be God for Jesus Christ!’”

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–J.C. Ryle, “Sickness” in Practical Religion: Being Plain Papers on the Daily Duties, Experience, Dangers, and Privileges of Professing Christians (London: Charles Murray, 1900), 372-374.

Old Age: Passing On Something Of Value

SOURCE:  D. A. Carson

Reference:  2 Samuel 16; 2 Corinthians 9; Ezekiel 23; Psalms 70–71

OLD AGE. IT IS NOT SOMETHING our generation likes to talk about very much, at least not in realistic categories.

We talk about preparing for retirement, but only with the greatest reluctance do we prepare for infirmity and death. Very few talk about these matters openly and frankly—without, on the one hand, dwelling on them (which shows they are frightened by them), or, on the other hand, suppressing them (which again shows they are frightened by them).

It is much more responsible to learn how to age faithfully, to learn how to die well.

This the psalmist wanted. “Do not cast me away when I am old; do not forsake me when my strength is gone.… Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come” (Ps. 71:918). From his youth, he knew, God had taught him (Ps. 71:17). Now he prays against abandonment in old age.

At one level, the psalmist is primarily asking that God will protect him against outside attacks when he is too old and infirm to resist (Ps. 71:10ff.). This would be a special concern if the author of this particular psalm is David or some other Davidic king. A nearby nation that would not dare attack Israel when David was forty might be emboldened when David was pushing seventy. Though most of us are not kings, it is right and good to ask God for special protection when we grow so elderly and infirm that it is easy for others to take advantage of us.

But David’s vision is more comprehensive than mere protection.

He wants so to live in old age that he passes on his witness to the next generation. His aim is not to live comfortably in retirement, but to use his senior years “to declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come.” That is a prayer eminently worth praying.

Should not senior saints be praying for grace to pass on what they have learned to a new generation? Perhaps this will be one on one, or in small groups. Perhaps one of them will take under his or her wing some young Christian or abandoned waif. Perhaps some experienced prayer warrior will teach a young Christian leader how to pray.

And when there is too little strength even for these things, we shall pray that God’s grace will so operate in our weakness that God will be glorified in us: perhaps we shall teach younger Christians how to persevere under suffering, how to trust in the midst of pain, and how to die in the grace of God.

Ageing, Loss, And Change

SOURCE:  Adapted from  Stepping Stones/Lighthouse Network

Transformational Thought

Aging may bring the loss of mobility, hearing, sight, sex, independence, cognitive ability, friends, loved ones, and other cherished abilities and treasures. Each one of us chooses how we will react to these losses.

We might choose depression, an overwhelming sense of uselessness, or even worse, becoming a burden to others. We might choose anger and resentment because of the loss of control and independence. However, if we choose to dwell on what we no longer have or no longer can do, then we will miss the great opportunities still open to us.

Although it is normal to grieve our losses, it is easy to have this grief become the main lens through which we view ourselves, our future, and especially God. This distorted viewpoint will dramatically affect our functioning and decision-making. Instead, we need to choose to concentrate on the relationships, abilities, and opportunities that are still ours. To view life and God through truthful lenses, and not emotionally-distorted lenses.

These words from Paul can be an encouragement to us as we go through the aging process ourselves or care for our parents: “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:12-13

You might think, “I’m not old, so this doesn’t apply to me, but I’ll pass it to an old person I know.” Well, the way you handle getting older is determined by how you “practice” handling loss during your life between the ages of 10 and 55.  Focus on thankfulness for what you do have. Concentrate on Jesus, knowing that He will enable us (or our aging parents) to serve Him in and through the adversity … and to bless others.

Prayer

Dear Father God, help me to dwell on the positive in this season of my life … the good, not the bad; what I can do … not what I am unable to do. Guide all aging parents to focus on the positives in their lives, and guide us younger ones to practice these skills now. I thank You that we can pray in the name of and do all things through Jesus;  AMEN!

The Truth

Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious-the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.

Philippians 4:8

Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Oh, that you would choose life, so that you and your descendants might live! You can make this choice by loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him. Thisis the key to your life.

Deuteronomy 30:19,20

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