"Are we going to put up a Christmas tree this year?" Ralph asked.
"I'd like to," Bella answered. She enjoyed the festivities throughout the month of December. She bustled around her kitchen making the traditional holiday breads, candy and cookies. She liked to make a few Christmas gifts from the heart. Sometimes she added new recipes to the mix. There were wreaths for the doors, swags for the window ledges, garland and lights down the staircase. She loved Christmastime.
"I wouldn't care if we just skipped over Christmas," Ralph said.
That was not a new line. He had said it every year for a long, long while. Bella called him Scrooge to his face, teasing him, trying to cajole him into the holiday spirit, but he wasn't buying it this year, either. She was concerned about depression. He hadn't been "officially" diagnosed but she was pretty sure her observations were spot on. She had shared with their family physician her concerns hoping that he would talk to Ralph about it. But when Ralph came home after an appointment and she asked about it he said they did not talk about depression.
She stopped asking. She tried to do something about it herself but he was distant and uncooperative so she stopped trying and went about her own business. You can't help someone unless and until they want help, she decided. Still, she kept looking for some way to reach him, to convince him that he could talk to someone and feel better, enjoy these years after all the children left home. There were so many things they could be doing together if he would just reach out! He didn't understand how frustrating this was for her.
"Depression affects more than 6.5 million Americans aged 65 or older," advises NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness). "Most people in this stage of life with depression have been experiencing episodes of the illness during much of their lives. For others, depression has a first onset in late life-even persons in their 80s and 90s. Depression in older persons is closely associated with dependency and disability and causes great suffering for the individual and the family."
The article went on to say that "many older persons think that depression is a character flaw and are worried about being made fun of or of being humiliated. They may blame themselves for their illness and are too ashamed to get help"
Bella hadn't thought of that.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that depression is not a normal part of aging, but older adults are at increased risk for experiencing it. "Depression is not just 'having the blues' or the emotions we feel when grieving the loss of a loved one. It is a true medical condition that is treatable, like diabetes or hypertension." About 80 percent of older adults have at least one chronic health condition and half of them have more than one. Often they are not diagnosed or are misdiagnosed because of other health issues they may be dealing with. But a word to the primary health provider can make a big difference. With the holidays in full swing, stress and depression can add to what you already are feeling.
"Stress and depression can ruin your holidays and hurt your health," says the Mayo Clinic. "Being realistic, planning ahead and seeking support can help ward off stress and depression."
You can find the symptoms of depression at www.cdc.gov/aging/mentalhealth/depression.htm. You don't have to suffer. There is a world out there to explore, a life to live and enjoy. Travel, community service, companionship with others is just a start. Happy Holidays to you!
Family Recovery Center promotes the well being of individuals, families and communities with education, prevention and treatment programs for substance abuse and related mental health issues. For more information, contact FRC at 964 N. Market St., Lisbon; phone, 330-424-1468 or e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org.