Depression and Seniors: Signs to Look Out For and How to Get Help


Depression is not a normal part of aging, yet it effects a great deal of seniors. Although statistics report a large number of people suffering, most do not seek treatment. There are many reasons for this. Depression may present differently in the elderly than in younger adults and can also be overlooked because of the prevalence of other health concerns, sleep problems, lifestyle, or grief.

When is it depression?

You may suspect depression in a loved one if:

they have lost interest in activities they used to enjoy

they express feelings of hopelessness or helplessness

they have a lack of motivation or energy

they have lost weight/interest in eating

These symptoms may also be present with certain health conditions or when a loved one is grieving. While you can’t diagnose the person you’re worried about, you can look for signs, ask them questions about what they’re going through, support them, and get support.

What do you do if you suspect your loved one is depressed?

Realising a loved one may be battling depression can be very hard for caregivers. You may feel frustrated or lost and unsure of how to help. Your care partner may be resistant to seeking help and might not want to talk about what they’re going through. So, what can you do?

Ask questions. 

You may be noticing some symptoms of depression, and you’ll want to ask some questions to get some clarity. These conversations can be tough. Try using phrases like, “When did you start feeling like this?” “What can I do to help?” Use active listening so your loved one knows they’re being heard.

Encourage your loved one to get help. 

It takes a lot of vulnerability to share with someone that you are feeling depressed, so your loved one may be reluctant to talk to a health care professional about what they’re going through. Let them know that you care about them and want to support them to get the help they need to feel better. Offer to make an appointment for them and join them for their first visit if you can. If your loved one knows you are willing to walk with them on your journey, they may feel more comfortable asking for help.

If you suspect your loved one is struggling with depression and they’re unwilling to get support, or if you suspect they may be suicidal, reach out for help. Talk to your doctor, or call The Crisis Centre: 1-800-SUICIDE

Supporting someone with depression can be overwhelming and cause stress for the caregiver. If you are caring for someone who may be depressed, make sure you are getting the support you need as well.

Cassandra Van Dyck




Conflict Over Inheritance


Despite the fact that many feel money or objects will never be an issue for their family, the inheritance can be a major source of strife among siblings. Even if there is little money to be shared in the inheritance, siblings can fight over sentimental family heirlooms.

Any inheritance that is unequally divided among siblings can be a painful experience and can damage relationships because the reality is that we equate a parent’s consideration of us in their will with love.

The most important thing to do to avoid this conflict is to have your parent clearly outline their wishes in their will so that you can use the document as a reference for when they are no longer able to make those decisions.

As well, it is helpful if your parent can explain their decisions to your family themselves. If they are already unable to make these decisions and there is no surviving spouse, the law will divide their assets evenly among their surviving children. However, conflict can still arise as siblings have emotional connection to mementos like your mother’s wedding china set or your father’s beloved guitar.

One way to mediate a conflict over inheritance is to have a family meeting with a trained counsellor. Clear communication facilitated by a professional early on in the dispute will help everyone identify their feelings behind the inheritance and heirlooms in order to find an agreeable solution.

Have you had a conflict over inheritance? How did you resolve it? We’d love to hear your stories in the comment section or you can send it anonymously to



Recommended Article: The Rise of the Male Caregiver by Sherri Snelling


“In 2009, according to a National Alliance for Caregiving/AARP study, men accounted for 34% of the nearly 65 million family caregivers in the United States,”writes Sherri Snelling. “But more recent surveys show the number of men in this traditionally female role has risen rapidly, driven by a combination of factors, including the recession, changing gender expectations and longer life expectancies.”

Are you a male caregiver? If so, this article will be of interest to you, to know that you are not alone. Sherri Snelling writes about how this rise of the male caregiver, perhaps can be partially attributed to the fact that more woman are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease than men, putting more men into the caregiving role for not only their parents, but also their spouses.

What do you think? Let us know in the comment section.


7 Tips for Communicating with your Siblings

photo-1460518451285-97b6aa326961.jpgDid you read the July/August 2016 issue of The Family Caregivers’ Grapevine? In this issue we talked about the sibling relationship when caring for aging parents. The sibling relationship can be a difficult one to manage in crisis because old feelings and family roles may surface and hinder your best efforts to handle your parents’ care. Good communication is essential to ensuring that everyone in your family is on the same page.

Here are 7 tips for communicating with your siblings: 

  1. Express your feelings directly using I-statements such as “I feel overwhelmed with the responsibility.” You-statements such as “You don’t help!” can sound accusatory and incite a defensive response from your brother or sister.
  2. Avoid guilt-trips or passive aggressive behaviour when you perceive that family members could be doing more. It will only cause further harm to the situation.
  3. Evaluate whether your emotions are suited to the situation at hand, or whether they are the result of past battles or symptoms of burn-out.
  4. Be clear about how your siblings can help you as the primary caregiver. Make a list of everything that needs to be done to have on hand when you talk to your siblings.
  5. Accept the limitations of your family members in helping care for your family members. If your brother can`t leave Toronto because of his job, what can he do from afar?
  6. Keep communication open between your siblings through phone apps, emails, or phone calls. Make a schedule for communication and stick to it.
  7. Employ the help of a professional counselor before conflict gets out of hand. They can help mediate the situation so everyone feels heard and understood.

Do you have a tip to add? Please let us know in the comments.




Helpful Article: “Your First Appointment with a Psychiatrist, Are You Prepared?”

Karyn, the NSCR Caregiver Support Program Coordinator, came across this article called, “Your first appointment with a Psychiatrist, are you prepared?” by Natasha Tracy. Karyn said that the article “speaks to the lived experience of having mental health challenges.”

The author, Natasha Tracy, offers some practical tips to avoid the very common freeze feeling when people see a psychiatrist for the first time, especially if you are feeling some trepidation.


Some of the practical tips include:

  • Making a list of your concerns and examples of these concerns before your appointment.
  • Bring a loved one for moral support.
  • Write down what the Psychiatrist says in your appointment so you can refer to it later.

Here’s a quote from article: 

“Recently, someone wrote me and asked how to best handle a first psychiatric appointment. This is a good question because, essentially, people are walking into the vast unknown. If you’ve never seen a psychiatrist before, how could you possibly know what to expect? And, the kicker of that is, the doctor will be asking you why you’re there. So you’re supposed to know what to say when he says that. So how do you handle your first psychiatric appointment?” 

Do you have anything to add to Natasha Tracy’s suggestions? Let us know in the comments section.


“Don’t Give Advice to People Who Are Drowning” by Susan Macaulay

For anyone who has been told “Ask for help,” when you feel you are struggling to cope with your caregiver responsibilities, Karyn found an excellent article called “Don’t Give Advice to People Who Are Drowning” by Susan Macaulay, published on The Caregiver Network website.


Here’s a quote from the article: 

“Ask for help,” is a tip I’ve found on just about every Alzheimer’s dementia care website I’ve ever visited.

Imagine this:

A woman wades into the sea. She walks out from the safety of the beach. Suddenly the sea floor drops off and she gets caught in a powerful current. She starts to drown. People on the beach notice. A crowd of onlookers gathers at the shoreline. The crowd includes several lifeguards. Everybody watches as the woman drowns. “Call for help! Call for help!” Some of them yell at her, but no one, including the lifeguards, does anything. No one steps into the water. No one tries to save her. No one tries to help her save herself.

Ridiculous, right?”

Do you relate to this article? Please let us know in the comment section above.


How to Talk to Your Doctor


In Canada, navigating the health care system is not without its challenges. Finding a family doctor can be tough, and getting the needed time with your GP once you have one may be even harder. Due to high demand, appointments are usually kept short. Many patients struggle to express their concerns in the allotted time and leave appointments feeling they have not been heard. It may sometimes feel that this common situation is out of your control, but there are things you can do to help make sure your needs are met by health care professionals.

The following tips from Literacy Partners of Manitoba may help you to talk to your doctor more efficiently, understand the kind of care and medications you will be receiving, and ensure your voice is heard.

Remember Your Rights

I can expect:

  • to be told what’s happening to me
  • to have my questions answered in words I can understand
  • to know the possible treatments, and to say yes or no, and to change my mind
  • to be treated with dignity, kindness and respect at all times
  • to know that my health information will not be shared with anyone without my agreement

Plan Before You Visit A Doctor

  • Think of what you want to talk about before you go. You can take someone with you to help you talk to the doctor.
  • Write 2 or 3 words that will remind you what you want to ask.
  • Ask the most important things first.
  • Tell the doctor as much as you can about what’s bothering you.
  • Know what medicine you are already taking (including aspirin and cough syrup, etc.)

At the end of your visit…

You might say, “Doctor, I just want to make sure I understand.” Then ask these questions:

  1. What is my main problem?
  2. What do I need to do?
  3. Why is it important for me to do this?
  4. Will I get better? How long will it take?

Write down the answers.

If you still don’t understand…

You might…

  • say: “This is new to me. Will you please explain that to me again?”
  • ask: “What does that mean? I don’t understand that word.”
  • ask for a picture of the medical problem
  • ask the doctor to write things down
  • bring someone to the next visit
  • call Health Links and ask them to explain (786-8200, 1-888-315-9257)

Ask Questions About Medicine

  1. What is the name of this medicine? Can you write it down for me, please?
  2. What will it do for me?
  3. Are there any problems that the medicine might cause?
  4. How much does it cost?
  5. Are there other medicines or treatments that might help me with this problem?
  6. When should I take the medicine?
  7. How should I take the medicine?


Words by Cassandra Van Dyck




Seniors and Safe Driving

These are some things that can help:


  • can avoid freeway
  • can avoid driving in bad weather
  • drive only in daylight
  • can take a refresher course
  • can see a Certified Drive Rehab Specialist for an evaluation

Warning signs:

  • do you have a hearing problem? can you hear sirens?
  • problems with range of motion
  • lapses in memory
  • forgetting route
  • missing exits
  • drifting into other lanes
  • “close calls”
  • increased traffic tickets
  • dents

How to talk to senior about driving:

  • be specific
  • strength in numbers
  • research alternatives
  • slower transitioning
  • if refuse to give up keys, anonymous call to Department of Motor Vehicles

Safe Driving everyone!

Calm Pond


Review of : Emotional Tune Up For Caregivers Workshop

On a Fall evening 15 or so women gathered together to speak of many things. Of self-care, fatigue, sleep, worry, and how to keep emotional balance in trying times.  Above all, our facilitator, Cheryl, of her company “Intuitive Life”,  emphasized the point that we all have it in us to triumph over even the greatest challenges in life.

Using a tool called the “Pain to Power Chart”, we estimated our level of pain at the time of workshop, and, several women said their scores went up by the end of the workshop, so empowered were they by Cheryl’s motivating wisdom.

It is rather poignant how, when Cheryl asked how many women were taught self-care as they were growing up, no one raised their hands. We all agreed self-care for caregivers was of the utmost importance. One woman shared how she practiced origami, and how that brought joy to her day.

I felt empowered also,especially by what Cheryl said about “baby steps. ”

Cheryl quoted Napoleon Hill, how he said that for every challenge or hardship there is a seed of benefit.

On that note, I wish to thank Cheryl on behalf of the North Shore Caregivers Group, for her wisdom and personal strength.

Follow-up Post: The Three Conversations

Recently I posted a review of the book “Difficult Conversations” by Stone, Patton, and Heen.  Essentially the book boils down to the 3 conversations, and what they mean. The first conversation is the “What Happened” conversation. In this one, it is important to disentangle what the authors call “impact from intention.” For example, if someone said something to hurt my feelings, the impact of being hurt is clear, but the intention may not have been to hurt me at all. The second conversation the authors call the “Feelings” conversation.  In this one it is important, no essential, not to hide your feelings, and to begin with statements like “I feel..” The third and final conversation they call the “Identity” conversation.  Supposing I ask my boss for a raise, and he says no.  Then I might question my identity as a good worker, I might have, what the authors call, an “identity quake.”


Above all, it is important that all conversations be “learning” conversations, where neither party feels ignored or left out.  In this way the result is a “win-win” for both parties.  Or at least, you can “agree to disagree.”

Finally I leave you with a link to their website.  Just click on the “Help Yourself” tab to get helpful worksheets or translations of the book in other languages.

All in all a useful and timely book.  Stay tuned for my next posting on the book: “10 000 Joys, 10 000 Sorrows” about a caregiver’s journey with Alzheimer’s.

Happy reading!


Calm Pond