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Caregiving Chronicles


Caregiving Chronicles will present news and analysis on caregiving topics in MetroWest and around the world, in-depth Q&As with experts in fields related to caregiving and updates and announcements about caregiving resources available in MetroWest from Program Director Douglas Flynn.

If Depression could talk, what would it say? Part II: What are the key signs and symptoms of Depression?
By DebraMcDonagh / March 18, 2019

Part II: What are the key signs and symptoms of Depression?

Depression Doesn’t Always Have a Voice

The Caregiving Chronicles sat with Michelle Birdwell, Elder Community Care (ECC)  Triage Coordinator for BayPath Elder Services, and engaged in a Q&A session where Michelle shared with us how, as a caregiver, how we can identify the signs and symptoms of depression within our loved ones. Michelle shared with us from firsthand experience and referenced a presentation she wrote entitled: “It Isn’t Easy Being Blue. Depression in the Elder Population: Signs, Symptoms, and What to do.” 

CGMW: How do you explain what depression looks and feels like to someone who does not suffer from the illness?

MB: Depression does not always present as someone who cannot get out of bed, cries constantly, stays in dark rooms and other stereotypes. People with depression often go through the motions of their daily lives, keeping symptoms to themselves and trying to put on a happy face. To the person who has depression, it can feel as if there is a constant weight on your shoulders or chest. That weight just sits there and slowly removes joy over time, leaving the person feeling empty and weighed down with apathy or sadness. The person feels minimal relief from these feelings and is unable to see a time when they will feel “normal” again.

 CGMW: Since someone with depression may not talk about being depressed, what are the key signs of depression that we should look for in someone to whom we are giving care?

MB: Clinical depression is different from "the blues" or occasional sadness. Key Symptoms include: a sense of sadness and despair that doesn’t go away, a loss of interest in things that they once enjoyed and an overall lack of motivation or energy, weight loss or gain, trouble falling or staying asleep, a feeling of hopelessness and helplessness, a loss of self-worth and in some cases, thoughts of suicide or self-harm.

CGMW: Are there triggers that a caregiver can look out for that can make depression worse?

MB: Yes, though depression can fluctuate in intensity without outside influences, many life factors that are especially prevalent as we age can negatively influence depression levels.

 Health is a major trigger especially for those who suffer from chronic pain and on-going illness, or in hospice. Isolation is common as we age, resulting from our social circles getting smaller through the loss of a partner, friend, and family members. A sense of purposelessness that is derived from decrease mobility or a feeling of lost independence can prompt an increase in depressive thoughts. Fear is a major cause of higher depression levels; fear of death, financial worries, fear of dying alone, and an overall sense of vulnerability. Also, since people 60 and older are likely on medication, look to see if the side effects may decrease mood or cause anxiety. Major anniversaries or birthdays can also cause someone to become depressed. Two examples are someone who has lost their spouse and has what would have been their 50th anniversary coming up, or someone who is about to turn 70 and is facing a lot of changes in independence and mobility.

It’s important for people living with mental health conditions to know that they are not alone. Sharing a story about your personal experiences with mental health challenges can help in your own recovery as well as provide encouragement and support to others .  NAMI offers two safe, moderated spaces for sharing stories and creative expression: You Are Not Alone and OK2Talk.

Part I: "What does depression look like?"

Part III:How you can support someone with depression.”

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BayPath Elder Services, Inc

The BayPath Family Caregiver Support Program and has been made possible by funding from the Older Americans Act as granted by Executive Office of Elder Affairs. Participants may make a voluntary donation toward the cost of this federally funded service. Click here for more information. was originally made possible, in part, by generous grants from the MetroWest Health Foundation. Additional funding support was graciously donated by Avidia Bank from 2018 – 2021.

Thank you, MetroWest Health Foundation and Avidia Bank, for enabling BayPath Elder Services to provide support and resources to family caregivers.