Elephant in the Room

     I learned something after posting ‘Twas the Night, a short story, on my blog last week. I learned I have a few incredible friends and family members. People who were sure they recognized a little too much of “me” in the story and weren’t about to let it slide.

     For those who didn’t read it, ‘Twas the Night is a story of a woman in her late 60s who lives alone – well, almost alone – who’s seriously ill and ready to give up. If you’re interested, here is the link: http://www.dixiebrown.com/2012/12/23/twas-the-night/

     Admittedly, there are similarities between the woman in the story and me, not the least of which are a divorce, a great love of dogs and a brooding distrust of a self-proclaimed perfect God. The most obvious difference is my  50 something age (LOL!). The point is, my incredible friends and family saw the elephant in the room and initiated a conversation. They took a moment to ask a question and jumped right out of their comfort zones to make sure I was okay. I eventually convinced them my story was simply a work of fiction. I wrote it so, yeah, it sounds a little like me but, hey, my first book will be published in the spring. I’m not going anywhere until I see what’s next!

     Since the subject was brought up, I decided to do some research and here’s what else I learned. People 65 years or older have the highest suicide rate of any age group. Among the elderly, there’s an average of one suicide every 90 minutes. That’s 16 beautiful, wise and caring older citizens every day. Think of them as parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and teachers, because that’s who they are.

Solitude
Solitude (Photo credit: Moyan_Brenn)

     Many believe depression is a normal part of growing older, but it’s not. Feelings of sadness or grief are normal, but persistent depression that affects a person’s ability to function is no more acceptable for the elderly than it is for young people.

     As we age, we become all too familiar with loss. Retirement means loss of jobs. Diagnosis of life-threatening illness brings loss of physical health and stamina. Friends and family pass away. Sometimes we lose the ability to drive, to take care of ourselves or move around without the help of wheelchair or walker. Add to that financial difficulties and the depressing things we watch on the evening news and we have an understandable reason for a very sad statistic.

 

     Signs of depression in the elderly include:

  • ·       Changes in eating or sleeping patterns
  • ·       Increased prescription medication use
  • ·       Stockpiling medications
  • ·       Elaborate goodbyes
  • ·       Social withdrawal
  • ·       Rush to complete or revise a will
  • ·       Statements of hopelessness, i.e. I just can’t do this anymore    National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

     How can we help? My niece takes her therapy dog to visit elderly residents of nursing homes. That’s fantastic but not all of us can do that. Maybe it’s as simple as taking a few minutes to start a meaningful conversation with that aging grandparent or include that elderly uncle in a family function. Loneliness is a silent killer. If someone you know shows signs of severe depression, talk to them. Just knowing someone cares enough to ask might be the lifeline they need. If that doesn’t work, talk to their doctor or contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK to learn how to proceed.

     Is there someone you know who needs to talk about the elephant in the room?

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8 Responses to Elephant in the Room

  1. Paty Jager says:

    That’s interesting about others thinking it was you. I knew it was a work of fiction but wondered if you have gone through it with someone you knew as it was so riveting. And no one offs themselves when their first book is about to be unveiled!! LOL Congrats!

  2. Dixie Brown says:

    You’re so right about that, Paty! Each day is a new adventure. Thanks, and Happy New Year!

  3. Candi says:

    Good work, again!

  4. Dorothy says:

    Wow, 16 elderly people per day! I had no idea. Thanks for spreading the word. Knowledge is power!

  5. Dixie Brown says:

    It’s hard to imagine. Thanks for stopping by, Dorothy.

  6. Laura Cheshire says:

    I just spent 25 minutes on the phone with a patient who was very depressed. She had lost another person in her life and was feeling alone and hopeless. I remember one of my 90 some year old ladies telling me that “Honey, by this time in my life, pretty much every day is an anniversary of losing somebody or something. You have to learn how to deal with loss, to live.” They say that the first week of January is the most depressing week of the year. You are so right about reaching out. You may not know what to say, but we have all lost someone or something, and you can listen, if nothing else. And it helps. You are an insightful and caring lady.
    PS: Dix, I didn’t think it was you. We all put pieces of ourselves in what we create though.

  7. Dixie Brown says:

    Wow! So much wisdom in your 90 year-old lady. We should learn to tap that. Thanks for stopping by and for your wonderful comment. Happy New Year, Laura!

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