Change and depression in later years?

I have been a resident of the Gold Coast for over 40 years and during this time I have witnessed enormous change – some of it good, some not so good.  The most frustrating change is the increased level of “traffic”, which is understandable considering the increase in the area’s population.  Knowing the reasons for the increase does not make the level of stress any less.

Now, before any of you readers who live in the capital cities, point out that the traffic issues on the Gold Coast are nothing compared to those of their capital city, let me just say, I agree.

I would also like to point out that regardless of where you live, the increased level of stress caused by the changes in the level of traffic is minor in comparison to the massive changes a person experiences in the later years of their life.

At the beginning of this week, I had to take my mum for a driving test.  She is 87 years of age and her doctor required her to take a physical driving test, which I could fully understand but Mum couldn’t.  Mum failed – apparently, she drove through a red light, which is a very good reason for failing. However, if you were to ask my mum she would state “What red light, I don’t remember any red light”.

To be honest, I was thankful mum had failed – it lessens my level of stress. Unfortunately, her stress levels jumped substantially. She became teary and very angry, blaming me, her doctor and the ladies from the optometrist – and they apparently had given her the incorrect driving glasses.

I very quickly pointed out that her financial situation was such that she could catch a cab to wherever she needed to go.  This did not relieve the situation. My mum in that instant decided she did not like cabs and declared that they never arrived on time.

I was, I admit, a little short with Mum and became irritated with what I thought was a completely irrational line of thought and argument.

Then it hit me, it was not the loss of the license, it was her perceived loss of independence and the change this would bring to her life.

This was another unwanted change which added to the growing list of changes my mum has seen in the last few years;

  • Mum’s health was deteriorating – she was no longer able to use a sewing machine or knit as she had done in the past,
  • Her memory was certainly going backwards,
  • Her cognitive powers were declining
  • 12 months ago, my stepdad, her partner had passed away,

All these changes, with the addition of the loss of her license, were causing her a great degree of anxiety and subsequently depression.

We do not plan for this event in our retirement but anxiety and depression in retirement, especially in older retirees, is a reality, and in the majority of cases, it has nothing to do with money – it is all to do with the change in a person’s health, the loss of partners relatives and close friends and the subsequent social isolation.

What should I have done?

I should have listened and tried to understand how Mum viewed the situation, not necessarily from my perspective.  I needed to be a lot more supportive of her concerns, real or otherwise and more importantly, I should have been a lot more patient.

PK and I have written a number of RYD blogs on the need to cope with the changes required in transitioning from work to retirement which when compared to the changes which can occur later in your retirement years are relatively easy.

It is important to remember that depression and black days can occur anytime in a person’s life and we should all be very mindful of changes in the behaviour, feelings, thoughts and physical symptoms of those people around us.

If you notice any changes which are a concern talk to the person and if necessary encourage them to seek the professional help available through Lifeline, beyondblue, and Black Dog etc.

As a very quick footnote and to end this blog on a more positive note, Mum is a lot better and talking to me again.


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