By Deb DeArmond

“Mom. Get up. This is crazy. It’s 2:30 in the afternoon and you’ve been in bed all day.” I was impatient with Mom’s unwillingness to get up. She wouldn’t even respond to me other than to repeat, “I’m tired. Please. Just let me sleep.”

I was getting desperate. She wasn’t eating or taking her meds. She had simply withdrawn from her daily routine. I admit, it was a bit boring, but, still. She needed to get up. She wasn’t sick.

Or was she?

It finally dawned on me that my mother, my always upbeat and “look on the bright side” mother, was struggling with depression. You could have said few things that would surprise me as much as that realization.

When her doctor confirmed my suspicion, I was ashamed. I had been so impatient with what I thought was just her being difficult. I had badgered her, bullied her and tried to guilt her into resuming a normal schedule. I wanted to crawl into a hole and pull it closed behind me.

Thankfully, my mom’s doctor assured me that many adult children miss the signs of depression in their parents and told me not to beat myself up over it.

Being a caregiver for an elderly parent is not something they teach you to do in school. There are now some decent support tools for those in that role, but at the time, I was not aware of them if they did exist.

Recognizing depression in the elderly starts with knowing the signs and symptoms. Depression red flags include:

• Sadness

• Fatigue

• Abandoning or losing interest in hobbies/pastimes

• Social withdrawal and isolation

• Weight loss or loss of appetite

• Loss of self-worth (worries about being a burden, feelings of worthlessness, self-loathing)

• Increased use of alcohol or other drugs

• Fixation on death; suicidal thoughts or attempts

• Sleep disturbances; not sleeping, oversleeping, daytime sleepiness

As I review the list, Mom was evidencing four of them. But if you are providing care for someone elderly, even one of these should raise a red flag. And that means you need to take action. Don’t know where to start? Here are some great resources:

Mayo Clinic article on depression in the elderly

Health Magazine – 7 Ways to Help Depression in the Elderly

Helping Elderly Loved Ones With Depression

The most important thing is to get help. It’s hard to admit that Mom or Dad is struggling with an emotional/mental difficulty. We want them to be who we have always known them to be – but they’re not. It’s important to help them in being the best they can be now. So help them as much as possible, by championing not only their physical health, but their mental health, too.


  1. 7-17-2012

    When it was appointed that I would have to care for my mother in the last 3 weeks. I would have to say I have been very guilty of the impatience,bullying,badgering for years. It was hard for me to come to grips that she was not at par. I was in denial. I had given my mother numerous apologies. She was always so gracious with me. When confronted that I would have to care for her. I gave a verbal “NO” I will not do this. I am not a caregiver. It is not what I set out in my life to do. I fought with myself and God. I have had many singles to families live with me in past times but I felt trapped that this was a lifetime commitment not a temporal one. I was not even embarrassed with my stance. My will was challenged. I had two girls that live with me that are care givers and they said they would help but they let me know they were not going to do all the work. I felt the pickle juice. I will never forget the first day when my will was succumbing to do what was right. I walked out the house with a meal and decided I will change her diaper, I will clean her, I will change her, I will sit with her till she finished eating, I will deal with my Dad’s impatience and denial. I felt something break inside. I was humbled. I thought I knew service. I respect to those who take care of their families. My situation is minimal. With a sigh I am thankful I started at this stage and hopefully I can graciously work into this when it becomes arduous.

    • 7-17-2012

      Oh Gloria, bless you for your transparency. I have met so many caregiving children who feel this way but would never acknowledge it. It’s much tougher than raising my kids. It’s such a difficult job and demanding both physically and emotionally. God will honor your service to your mom. Bless you as you help her transition from this life to the next.

      • 7-17-2012

        Thank you Deb. I find writing to this blog is very healthy for me because I have to be honest with my self and while I write I can identify where I am at. So if I do not make sense lets say its a brain and heart burp and everyone can enjoy it. :-)To write here is very safe. So I will be a frequent flyer.

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