Archive for the ‘Older Adults’ Category
The holiday season has begun for 2013. It is to be a time of joy, happiness, spending time with family and celebration. But for many that have experienced a loss of a loved one or dear friend this past year, it is very difficult to find the joy, happiness and celebration in the season. Most of us have experienced the emptiness, sadness and overwhelming grief that hangs over our heads and in our hearts as we go through the holiday season. It seems the whole world is celebrating and happy but we feel very much alone. As difficult as it is….the holidays come and go and you can make it through.
I lost my older brother to a suicide on the day of December 24, 2002. It was a devastating to my whole family. You see, he has never dealt with depression or any other mental health issues that would have predicted this act. As we later found out, he was dealing with a very personal issue involving his girlfriend at that time. Later when facts started to emerge, we know that she was greatly involved in his decision. Christmas Eve is the most important event within my family. Growing up in a large family we always attended the candlelight service at our church.What followed was coming back to our house full of relatives and friends. It was the one time of the year that everyone was together! This happening on this date made the reality of the situation even more painful. When each of my family members received the news (we were all at our own homes preparing for the evening to be spent at my parent’s house), we arrived at my parent’s home as soon as possible. Still in shock but remembering what the holiday was about, my father stated that the Christmas celebration must go on. We had presents to exchange and there were many younger children within the family that deserved as much. That Christmas was very difficult and somber. Every year on December 24th we continue to have our family celebration but each member continue to deal with the events of that day in their own way. The pain is not as intense and we are healing, some faster than others.
A past professor of mine shared this quote the other day on Facebook. I feel it speaks some of the feelings that the grief journey is about:
Grief never ends But it changes.It is a passage, NOT a place to stay. Grief is neither a sign of weakness nor lack of faith….IT’S THE PRICE OF LOVE!
When you become a child of God through Jesus Christ our Savior you have a savior that is always by your side! Jesus is the reason for the season! When our loved ones are saved remember they are spending Christmas with Jesus this year! They no longer have any pain or suffering. The holidays are not the same with them not being present (in body) but they are always with you. Here are some guidelines to remember.
- Each individual’s grief journey is unique
- There is no “right” or “wrong” way to experience your grief
- Be patient with yourself, sometimes you have a bad day, that is part of the healing process
- Take care of yourself. Stay on a balanced diet, get plenty of sleep, don’t over use alcohol and if on other medications please read the medications label about alcohol use.
- Grief has NO time table! Some losses are more complicated on the grief journey and take a much longer piece of time to feel as if you are healing.
- Honor the deceased this time of year by placing a special ornament that reminds you of the person on your tree or a special decoration just for them. Personally, I have a peace dove ornament hanging from my window in my kitchen. The dove has special meaning surrounding my brother’s death.
- Last and Not least……Grief feels as if your heart has been ripped open…it heals from within and the future holidays will not always be this painful.
My husband and I have an anniversary coming up soon. It will be our 27th! My parent’s celebrated their 61st anniversary this year, wow. In our local newspaper they list anniversaries under the celebrations category including those couples who have celebrated 25th, 50th, 60th and more. It is a time of celebration to mark those milestones in ones relationship with their partner. Many couples married this year for the 1st time. It is a very exciting event for the couple. All the planning and expectations of sharing their lives together. Although all marital unions are not created equal-they all go through some predictable stages. According to, Rita DeMaria, PhD, a marriage and family therapist and author of The 7 Stages of Marriage, the timing may differ, and the way a couple manages the phase they’re in varies widely but understanding the stages gives you the tools you need to move through with your loving union intact. Below are the list of the stages and some of the challenges that go with that stage:
- HONEYMOON STAGE: The first year or two is a passion-filled period that all about the two of you and your intense focus on the excitement and romance of the relationship. Differences seem relatively unimportant as the focus is on discovering each other and sharing life together. Usually you cannot get enough of each other sexually. At this stage, we love the way our partner makes us feel as much as we love him or her.
- Challenges At This Stage: Learning to live as a couple and share decision making together. Many times this is the first time that decisions affect someone other than yourself. Should you invest in a home, car, or travel? What are the expectations concerning your careers or educations? How will you handle financial matters? What about extended family (parents and in-laws)? Many couples feel that their love for each other will automatically determine the answers to these questions and many are “caught” off guard when discussions turn into arguments in hearing the other’s viewpoint.
- REALITY STAGE: In this stage couples are learning more about themselves and each other in situations they haven’t faced together before. You may learn things that you might not have known about your spouse’s strengths, weaknesses and personal habits. Power struggles can arise as the two of you work towards both shared and separate goals. Working together as a team should be the focus of this stage. In this stage couples may discuss having children. Many couples feel that the “Spark” has left their marriage and interpret this to mean that one of the partners has fallen “out of love”. They may decide that bringing children into the marriage at this time, may help reignite that spark. In actuality, euphoria is replaced by more solid emotions like trust, respect, empathy and admiration. The highs aren’t as high and the lows aren’t as low; the relationship becomes more stable, predictable and dependable.
- Challenges At This Stage: There may be feelings of disappointment, aloneness along with a “let down” as reality sets in. This is marriage’s vulnerable stage. It’s a time when a woman can go from feeling cherished to being taken for granted and when a man can go from feeling admired to be belittled. Reality and a wide range of roles and responsibilities start to impose upon the lust and love. This is the stage that you need to establish open communication. Set time aside each day, either in the mornings or evenings, where you just check in with each other and talk about your day. If regular open communication is not established during this stage, years later you may wake up lying next to a stranger in bed wondering how you grew so far apart. It is also in this stage that marriage counseling can have the most benefit for the couple instead of trying to ignore the problems and differences until they reach a point that some of the damage is irreversible.
- FAMILY CENTRAL: This stage is often referred to as “the meat of marriage”. Most of the years spent in this stage consist of raising their families, buying a home, building and/or changing careers and trying to hold together a crazy, busy, modern life. This period of time is also another danger zone, due to the shifting of demands and responsibilities. The stress level is usually the highest in this stage. It’s very difficult to keep sufficient focus on the marriage relationship with the attention that kids demand and other stressors in the relationship, but it is important to do so. This is also the time period that many couples become disappointed and disillusioned to the “Ground Hog Day” type of routine. Partners may begin having an affair, or worse yet, asking for a divorce due to the lack of focus on the marriage.
- Challenges at This Stage: Not losing sight of your partnership in the swirl of demands on your time and energy. Now is the time to pay close attention to your marriage. Give yourselves time to communicate without distractions. Plan a regular date night when just the two of you share regular time together. Plan a getaway weekend to reconnect without all the stresses of the outside world. Open, honest and sensitive communication is the key to surviving this stage of the marriage. If the same issues continue to arise and one or both of you are feeling frustrated, couples counseling can be very helpful in this stage to help you get unstuck.
- STILL IN LOVE; This is the stage when you now have adult children and there is more time to focus on the two of you. During this stage there is a reconnecting with getting to know each other all over again. There are still disagreements but rather than hold onto the anger, partners choose to forgive and trust. We easily learn to live the lesson of mature and lasting love.
- Challenges at This Stage: Focusing on the two of you and having time to spend together may be a struggle for some couples. Focusing their energies on the children, careers, and other life stressors for so many years may be a huge adjustment for many couples. Without consistent, open communication throughout the marriage, your partner may feel like a stranger. It is during this time that couples need to focus their time on doing things together, such as a new activity or travel, as well as spending time apart, pursuing individual goals and dreams. You can rescue a marriage that’s been ignored for a long time, but it will take work, so seek out professional counseling.
- “TILL DEATH DO YOU PART.”: This stage is also referred to as the completion stage. You have enjoyed the lust, lived the love and come through the chaos of family life- without splitting up in the face of troubles. You still enjoy being together and are committed to each other for the rest of your lives.
- Challenges at This Stage: Many couples in this stage are totally committed to each other. Health issues may be a primary concern at this stage. You may have dreamed of the freedom to travel and do what you want, but one or the other partner is unable to do so because of health concerns. There may be added financial stress due to living on a fixed income and the current recession. Changes in lifestyle such as living arraignments may be a source of stress and adjustments.
At any time during you marriage you may experience unexpected life stressors that can interrupt the forward motion of your life together, such as fertility issues, a death in the family, a major illness or the loss of a job that leads to serious financial strains. Seeking support during those times is very important. You may seek advice from friends, family members, religious counselors or professional therapist.
Lory Naugle, MS, NCC, DCC is a professional counselor in private practice in Shippensburg, PA. She sees client’s in her office but is also able to provide counseling by distance means such as email, chat, and Skype.
It has been well over a week since I last posted on this blog. Sorry about that, several occurances happened since my last post. I had the opportunity to attend a local Chamber Mixer in my hometown. This particular mixer was held at a local nursing home facility. In talking with the Director of the home we began to discuss depression and suicide in the elderly. She stated that she recently attended a seminar and was suprised to learn that elderly men have a higher rate of suicide than teenage boys. This statistic has held true for many years. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, of every 100,000 people ages 65 and older, 14.2 died by suicide in 2006. Non-Hispanic white men age 85 or older had an even higher rate, with 48 suicide deaths per 100,000.These figures are much higher than the national average of 10.9 suicides per 100,000 people in the general population! These are very scary statistics. In order to bring attention to these alarming rates, I feel it is very important for everyone to learn and understand the RISK FACTORS. They include:
- depression and other mental disorders, or a substance-abuse disorder
- prior suicide attempt
- family history of mental disorder or substance abuse
- family history of suicide
- family violence, including physical or sexual abuse
- firarms in the home, the method used in more than half of suicides
- exposure to the suicidal behavior of others, such as family members, peers, or media figures.
Please Note: suicide and suicidal behavior are Not normal responses to stress; many people have these risk factors, but are not suicidal. Research also shows that the risk for suicide is associated with changes in brain chemicals called neurotransmitters, including serotonin. Decreased levels of serotonin have been found in people with depression, impulsive disorders, and a history of suicide attempts, and in the brains of suicide victims.
As you can see, Depression is a HUGE risk factor. Earlier this week we received the May edition of the AARP Bulletin in the mail (my husband is the subscriber). In this edition they published an excellent article on depression among older adults written by Peter Jaret. In the article it stated that depression is the most common of all mental illnesses. Depression affects approximately 7% of the population and more than one in 10 Americans have a prescription for antidepressants, which is now among the most widely used of all medications.
Depression can express itself in many ways among the general population. Depression is often associated with persistent sadness and melancholy. The symptoms of depression can also be a loss of pleasure and enjoyment in the things people used to enjoy, or a change in one’s sense of oneself, a feeling of worthlessness and uselessness, a change in appetite, weight, and or sleeping patterns. These particular “markers” also apply to older people but at times are just dismissed as a normal part of aging. In reality, the vast majority of older people go through life’s ups and downs without suffering depression. The experts insist that depression is NOT a normal part of aging.
Among older people the symptoms may present themselves in more physical forms such as problems sleeping, aches and pains, memory complaints, difficulty with concentration, and changes in appetite. An example of these types of complaints may be, “I can’t sleep, nothing taste good, and my back hurts”. Older adults may not talk to their doctor or family members about their sad or anxious feelings because they are embarrassed or don’t want them to worry about them. But depression is nothing to be embarrassed about. It is not a personal weakness, it is a medical illness and can be treated.
Once diagnosed, 80% of clinically depressed individuals, including older persons, can be effectively treated by medication, psychotherapy, or a combination of the two. Studies have shown that the combination of medication along with psychotherapy to be highly effective for banishing the shadows of depression for good. Remember you don’t have to live this way; Help is available and Proven Effective.
Until Next Time,
Lory Naugle, MS, NCC, DCC