Ageing takes its toll on you, both physically and also mentally, and it can be hard to adjust to not being able to do the physical actions you once took for granted. It can be especially hard to cope if you are suddenly struck down with an illness that limits you physically, such as a stroke or a heart attack. Furthermore, mental health problems due to stress can also be damaging.
Poor health can not be divided into “mental” and “physical” health. Poor physical health can create the ideal conditions to develop mental health issues which in turn make for poor physical health. And thus, a vicious cycle is created in which worsening physical health impacts on mental health and, ultimately, causes even worse physical health. Having issues with hearing or eyesight, finding it hard to manipulate everyday objects or losing your mobility can be an extremely annoying thing, can make you feel like a nuisance and can push you towards developing depression.
It is very normal to feel depressed as you grow older. For some people the seeds are sown with the first grey hair or extraneous wrinkle, whereas others seem to take normal ageing in their stride and only develop depression in response to a sudden worsening of their condition. Finding that you are physically restricted – for example if you can no longer walk or if arthritis means preparing meals and caring for yourself is painful – can trigger depression.
Some of the symptoms of depression are:
- Feeling sadness or “down”
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Low self-esteem
- Crying or feeling tearful
- Irritability and intolerance
- Lacking motivation, enjoyment in life and the ability to make decisions
- Feeling suicidal or thinking of harming yourself
If you start to experience these symptoms, then speak to someone. This could be your home help, a friend or relative or you could call a specialist helpline. Your doctor can also help by offering practical advice such as referrals to support groups or by prescribing anti-depressants if necessary.
Often it is the feeling that you are now a burden on others, that your independence has been taken away or that you no longer have any control over your life that is the biggest issue. In some cases, it can be difficult to determine if an elderly person is depressed or suffering from dementia, so it is important to access professional support as early as possible.
Obtaining more help day-to-day can also help with your mental health and wellbeing. If relying on friends and relatives to bolster your independence would make your mental health worse then there are other options such as employing a contract cleaner to help keep your house nice, subscribing to a meal service, attending a day centre or even using a live in care service which can empower you to overcome the physical limitations of your condition. This can improve your mental health, as well as increasing the likelihood that you can remain living in the familiar surroundings of your own home. Being at home around familiar surroundings can certainly make a big difference in many people’s wellbeing.