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Posts tagged ‘aging’

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.

 

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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.

READY FOR THE “SECOND HALF” OF MARRIAGE?

SOURCE: Adapted from The Second Half of Marriage by David/Claudia Arp

Are you in the second half of marriage?  Check out these symptoms:

*You have teenagers who will soon leave the nest.

*Your own parents are aging.

*You were recently invited to a 25th high school reunion.

*You exercise more and burn fewer calories doing it.

*You just received an invitation to join AARP.

*By the time you get your spouse’s attention, you’ve forgotten what you were going to say.

If you identify with these symptoms, you are in or are approaching the second half of marriage. The first half of marriage involved launching your union and surviving the active parenting years.  For some, menopause and the adolescent years may hit simultaneously, making the challenge in the second half of marriage even greater.

The transition into the second half of marriage is a crisis time for many couples.  The current trend of long-term marriages breaking up in record numbers is alarming.   Why the jump in divorces for this age group?  Could it be that as people begin to realize they are going to live longer, they don’t want to spend the rest of their life in an unhappy and unfulfilled marriage?  While many long-term marriages avoid divorce, other second-half issues can produce much stress.  The children grow up and leave home; our parents age and die; we may add a few pounds and more bulges; we may have less energy and move slower; one’s career may be winding down (while the spouse’s career is taking off); we begin to realize how fast life goes by and that if we are going to make changes, we’d better hurry, because we don’t have a lot of time left.

Marital researchers have discovered that for couples who hang together through the midlife transition, marital satisfaction begins to rise again and stays that way – if couples risk growing in their relationship.  The second half of marriage gives you the opportunity to reinvent your marriage, to make mid-course adjustments, and to reconnect with one another in a more meaningful way.  Healthy long-term marriages have staying power, because they are held together from within.

The following eight challenges describe the areas that if worked on will enrich your marriage for the second half.

The Eight Challenges for the Second Half of Marriage:

1.  Let go of past marital disappointments, forgive each other, and commit to making the rest of your marriage the best.

2.  Create a marriage that is partner-focused rather than child/career-focused.

3.  Maintain an effective communication system that allows you to express your deepest feelings, joys, and concerns.

4.  Use anger and conflict in a creative way to build your relationship.

5.  Build a deeper friendship and enjoy your spouse.

6.  Renew romance and restore a pleasurable sexual relationship.

7.  Adjust to changing roles with aging parents and adult children.

8.  Evaluate where you are on your spiritual pilgrimage, grow closer to each other and to God, and together serve others.

Challenge 1Let go of past marital disappointments – forgive each other – commit to making the rest of your marriage the best.

A.  Identify grievances.  Actually make a list.  This list is personal – not necessarily to be shared with your spouse.

B.  Evaluate the grievances you listed.  Which ones can easily be forgiven?  Which need to be discussed?  Which do you need professional help with to overcome?

C. Decide to forgive.  Are you willing to forgive your spouse for the items you listed?  Forgiveness begins with a simple decision – an act of the will.

D.  Let go.  Ceremoniously let go of the little grievances you listed.  Perhaps you will want to burn them or bury them.

E.  Change your responses now that you’ve forgiven your spouse.  Try replacing any future negative response to a situation with a loving encouragement for your spouse.

F.  List the things you will do in the second half of marriage:

*We will release and let go of our missed dreams and disappointments with each other, with our children, with our parents, and with ourselves;

*We will accept each other as a package deal;

*We will forgive and ask forgiveness when needed;

*We will renew our commitment to each other and to growing together in the second half of our marriage.

Challenge 2. Create a marriage that is partner-focused rather than child/career-focused.

A. Recognize that we grow at different rates, roles may switch, and rules may change.

*Many wives may become more focused and assertive and are eager to try their professional wings – especially if the first half of marriage was dedicated to parenting children.  Many men may decide to slow down and enjoy life a little bit more.

B. Recognize the need to become closer companions.

*Many couples facing the second half of marriage have little shared privacy because lives have been consumed by children and careers. As important as children, parents, friends, jobs, and hobbies may be, strive to make the marriage more important.  Develop a concept of “we-ness” and look for ways to develop it.

C. Make a commitment to personal growth, to developing an effective communication system, and to learn how to make creative use of conflict.

Challenge 3Maintain an effective communication system that allows you to express your deepest feelings, joys, and concerns.

A. Avoid negative patterns of communicating – Consider doing what is positive and works.

*Negative pattern 1 – Avoider-Confronter Couple.  The avoider often retreats into his or her own world.  He/she prefers to ignore problems and let them slide.  For the most part, avoiders are uncomfortable talking about their feelings.  The confronter has no trouble expressing her or her feelings.

*Negative pattern 2 – Conflict-Avoiding Couple.  Conflict-avoiding couples may work well together in many areas, such as building careers or parenting.  However, they lack close personal relationship.  When it comes to deep, intimate conversation or dealing with personal issues, they are distant from one another.  Instead of dealing with negative feelings, they stuff them inside.

*Negative pattern 3 – Conflict-Confronting Couple.  The conflict-confronting couple has no lack of communication, however, much of it is negative and hurtful.  Instead of dealing with conflict, they vent frustrations to the point that effective communication is stifled.

*Positive pattern – Interpersonally Competent Couple.  This involves working on developing  new and better ways to communicate and learning to use conflict constructively. Avoid what doesn’t work, and seek out more of what works better through reading, counseling, workshops.

Challenge 4Use anger and conflict in a creative way to build your relationship.

A. Understand that conflict and anger are givens in any marriage, but if we learn the skills for dealing with them, we can build rather than destroy our relationship.

*Analyze your own anger.  Ask yourself, “What am I really angry about? What is the problem, and whose problem is it?  How can I sort out who is responsible for what? How can I learn to express my anger in a way that will not leave me feeling helpless and powerless?  How can I clearly communicate my position without becoming defensive or attacking?

*Together as a couple make an anger contract.  This is a protective way to confront anger as a couple. Make your anger contract at a time when you are not angry!

First, agree to tell each other when you first realize you are getting angry. Second, renounce the “right” to vent your anger on your spouse.  Third, ask for your spouse’s help in dealing with whatever is causing the anger.

B. Marriage turbulence can even be healthy.  A solid marriage relationship provides “a safe place to resolve honest conflict and process your anger. It can help your marriage grow.”

Challenge 5. Build a deeper friendship and enjoy your spouse.

A. Building a long-term friendship in the second half of marriage is influenced by many things including health issues.

*Take care of yourself.  Invest in your health.

*Pace yourself.  Is it realistic to try to maintain the same pace of ten years ago?

*Build relationships and maintain them.  Build friendships outside your extended family to maintain a good support system.

*Stretch your boundaries.  Try new things or a new approach to “old” things.

*Stay involved with life.  Actively search for your passion.  Continue to learn and grow.

*Hang in there.  Avoid making drastic decisions when you’re feeling down.

B.  Plan for fun and have fun.

*Picnic in the park date.

*“I’m too tired date.” Grab some takeout food and avoid the phone/answer

machine/email/texts.

*Photo date. Set the timer on the camera and take some couple pictures.

*Gourmet-cooking date.  Plan the menu, do the shopping, and cook dinner – together!

*Highway date. Go exploring within a fifty-mile radius of home.

*Workout date.  Take a walk together or exercise together.

*Home Depot date.  Go to a home improvement store and plan and scheme your next improvement project.

*Window-shopping date.  Go window-shopping…maybe when the stores are closed.

*Airport date. Sit in the air terminal and watch the people come and go.

*Proposal date.  Go to a public place and ask your mate to marry you again.

Challenge 6Renew romance and restore a pleasurable sexual relationship.

A.  According to researchers, the hardest part of maintaining love and closeness is learning how to keep intimacy alive through the years of a marriage – especially the second half.

B.  Marriages grow in stages.  In the first decade couples learn about each other.  Children come along and test the limits of our energy.  The second decade of marriage entails fighting off boredom.  But, it’s in the third decade that things can really change.  Sex is an important aspect of marriage, but it is an area many couples are hesitant to talk about.  It is important as we face the empty nest years that we reexamine our attitude and bravely talk with our partner about our love life.  Also, as we reach midlife and beyond, we need to understand how our bodies change as we age – physically, psychologically, and hormonally.

*Reset the pace.  A man’s response time slows down as he ages. Instead of worrying about it, relax and enjoy it.  Think of the sexual relationship in the second half as a delightful stroll, not a sprint.

*Take action.  While younger men are stimulated by what they see, by age forty or fifty, men may be more stimulated by touching and caressing.

*Balance the seesaw.  Stop boredom by having both partners be the initiator from time to time.

*Dare to experiment. Because response times may be different or longer, this is a great time to experiment remembering “getting there can be half the fun.”

*Achieve more from less.  Find whatever frequency works best for your.  Let your lovemaking be anticipated and savored, and make the quality of the sexual experience your focus.

C.  Rekindling romance doesn’t just happen.  It takes some effort.  Couples can read books and talk together about how to “spice up” their love life.

D.  If because of severe health or other issues, the sexual relationship is difficult, talk to a physician or counselor to bring in other resources and perspective.

Challenge 7. Adjust to changing roles with aging parents and adult children.

A.  Being caught between teenage or adult children and aging parents is a dilemma many second half couples face.  The challenge is, how can you keep your marriage the anchor relationship while relating to other family members on both ends of the “family seesaw”?  Whatever your situation, your relationship with your elderly parents affects your marriage.  Whether the effect is positive or negative depends more on you than on the situation.

B.  Typical problems that prevent a healthy relationship with aging parents:

*Lack of trust. If parents have little trust and respect for their adult children, it will be hard to have a close relationship.  Not all elderly parent-adult children relationships are close.  Accepting those things you cannot change will help you to change the things you can.

*Lack of adult status. Ever feel as if you’re still a kid in your parents’ eyes?  And whenever you’re around your elderly parents, you react much as you did when you were growing up in their home?  You may not be able to change your parents’ view of you, but you can make a choice to treat your adult children differently.

*Denial.  Lack of open communication with your aging parents will make helping them more difficult.  Also, should memory losses occur and physical changes take place, elderly parents may deny that they need any help.  This leaves the adult child in a frustrating place.

*Excessive demands and manipulation. Along with a demanding parent can be the one who is manipulative.  With outside resources such as reading and counsel, it is important that we learn how to deal with issues of false guilt, not feeling responsible for what we can’t control, and maintaining a healthy, balanced life of our own.

C.  As we honor and care for our parents, we should not put them above our spouse.  At the same time, whatever our situation with our parents, we should try to build positive bridges with them.

D.  Dealing with adult children.  The transition into adult relationships with our children and their spouses can be a difficult challenge and if not well-managed can greatly affect our own marriage.  We need to be willing to let go and respect our adult children’s boundaries.  An unwillingness to let go is closely related to lack of adult status and lack of trust.  The question is, are we willing to let go – to release our children into adulthood and let them lead their own lives?  Building healthy, trusting relationships with your adult children can enrich the second half of your marriage.  and when your children marry, develop a relationship with each couple.

Visit but don’t stay too long.  Let them parent their own children.  Try not to give advice. Build a relationship with each grandchild.  Whatever your family background and whatever relationship you have today with your own parents, remember that you can build a healthy bridge to your own children and grandchildren.

Challenge 8Evaluate where you are on your spiritual pilgrimage, grow closer to each other and God, and together serve others.

A.  Consider what are your basic beliefs about what elevates your own marriage.

*God brought us together in the first place.

*Our continuing life together is part of God’s divine purpose.

*We have a witness to bear together.

*A shared life must have a sacrificial quality.

*A Christian marriage must find spiritual expression.

B.  It is God who can give us new passion for our spouse.  He is the one who can enable us to have an open and honest relationship and to construct a quality marital relationship.

C.  As each spouse grows in his or her spiritual pilgrimage:

*Accept where both you and your spouse are on that journey.

*Don’t force or coerce your spouse to attend or do something with you that you know he or she won’t enjoy.

*Be teachable and willing to learn.

*Promote spiritual closeness and unity through simple couple devotions and/or praying together.  Start with just 10 minutes a day.

D.  Consider serving others.

*Reflect His image together to others in a hurting world.

*Be beacons that give light to others and create a thirst for healthy marriage relationships.

*Reflect on these questions –

-What is something about which we are both passionate?

-If we have adult children (or will have), how can we be role models for them?

-What are some ways in which we can serve others together?

The Eight Challenges for the Second Half of Marriage

1.  Let go of past marital disappointments, forgive each other, and commit to making the rest of your marriage the best.

2.  Create a marriage that is partner-focused rather than child/career-focused.

3.  Maintain an effective communication system that allows you to express your deepest feelings, joys, and concerns.

4.  Use anger and conflict in a creative way to build your relationship.

5.  Build a deeper friendship and enjoy your spouse.

6.  Renew romance and restore a pleasurable sexual relationship.

7.  Adjust to changing roles with aging parents and adult children.

8.  Evaluate where you are on your spiritual pilgrimage, grow closer to each other and to God, and together serve others.

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