Spousal demise and depression in the elderly

Posted by Rama Ravi on Tue, Jul 2, 2013  
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India is a developing country and health care in India has greatly improved over the period of several decades. As a result, we are in the brink of a wide range of illnesses and also in use of world-class technologies for the cure of the same. The end result of all these developments is visible in the form of one sole indicator, which is the life expectancy. The graph of life expectancy in India shows a gradual rise from 40 years in 1960 to 65.48 years in 2011. This implies only one thing, which is the percentage of the population more than 60 years is gradually increasing. Now that is great news, as, long life is much-awaited boon for all of us. This news, though brings joy in our hearts, is accompanied by little fears in our minds. They are: how physically independent will we be after 60 years? What if my husband/wife dies earlier? How will I face it? Will my children take care of me well? Will they listen to me? Will I be allowed to take decisions in the family? These are constant worries our minds go through at the very thought of old age.


What happens in old age? We know for fact that as people grow old, their physical systems become less active and the organs perform at a slower rate and as a result they face a lot of physical and physiological problems. But what happens to their emotional component? Old age is a period of emotional maladjustment as a result of physical, physiological and financial weaknesses. Not to blame them, it is difficult for every individual to ‘let go’ at things that happen around them as the age and experience fight with time and health. There are several other social reasons which add fuel to fire, which are-


1. spousal demise


2. children’s neglect


3. financial dependency


4. physical dependency


5. chronic ailments.


All of us can understand how all the above factors can influence a persons emotional behaviour, except the first one, namely spousal demise. How spousal demise can influence, is what we will look at today.


A spouse, as far as Indian setting goes, is a major pillar of emotional strength to anybody. Though differences may exist, in countries like India where the duration of married life is longer than in many other countries, the influence of spouses is greatest.


For women, the female literacy is lower, owing to which the economic independence. Also, independence to decision making is far more lower. Therefore, women are more likely to be dependent on their husbands for their lifetime.


For men, though the financial decision making is vested upon them, the emotional quotient is met out by their women and therefore, there is a huge emotional vent following the death of the wife.


Nevertheless, a spousal death is a likely trigger for depression among the elderly and this has to be carefully looked out to prevent serious and irreversible consequences. How can one help with this? Here are simple suggestions all of us could easily follow to avert a depression among the elderly-


1. Look out for signs of depression in a mourning person. This is evident in the form of withdrawal from the social activites, lack of adequate food intake and sleeplessness


2. Take time from your schedule to spend a few hours in a day with the elders by get involved in their activities and take a mental note of their well being


3. Understand their likes and dislikes and respect their emotional feelings


4. Initiate them to resume their routine activities so as to enable them to relate with their spouse. This will give them immense happiness and satisfaction


5. Give them adequate time to cope with the loss


6. Do not make hasty changes in the household and their way of life as they will not be too willing to accept any change.


7. Encourage them to pursue their long lost hobbies and this will kindle the youthfulness and confidence in them.


By taking these small steps, we can ensure that the elders are able to live an emotionally stable and a peaceful life, for, their little joys will be reflected as greater joys and blessings on us. 


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