Something to Cheer You Up
A position paper prepared for the Australian Psychological Society reports that
Contrary to popular stereotypes (based on Ageism), most older people report that they are fit and well, and there is ample evidence that they contribute a great deal to the community. For example, Greene (1997) reported that, rather than being a drain on society, the current retired generation has provided a large economic subsidy to the generation behind them. They also work as caregivers to family and friends (Wells, 1997) and as unpaid volunteers in community and educational organisations (Greene, 1997; Swindell & Vassella, 1999). In fact, older people themselves provide the bulk of care to other older Australians, and are more likely to give financial support to other family members than to receive it (Wells, 1999; Kendig & Browning, 1997)
So why are you telling me this? I hear you ask! Because you need to start teaching your community to think differently about ageing. You also need to start thinking differently about disease prevention and seek out help when you need it. Needing and asking for help and support, seeking medical assistance or requiring a ‘help at home” service is your right as a citizen – not an indication of failure. We all need assistance from time to time, regardless of our lifespan. Human’s are social creatures. We are not meant to ‘do it alone”.
Getting the help and support you need for your “wellbeing” is not a sign of weakness, uselessness or an indication of age. It is a sign that you are wise enough to know your limitations and have problem solved ways of overcoming them. After all, when we tell people we can ‘manage” it is because we are the managers of our wellbeing. But even the best managers have to delegate some tasks from time to time.
For some men, retirement can bring excitement to the next chapters in their life, fulfilling the ‘bucket list” so to speak. For others it can bring angst and a sense of loss of self-loss of identity and purpose. Loss of purpose and social isolation are two of the key triggers to ill health for the older man after retirement.
Luckily humans are innately adaptable. It is amazing how we have the potential to adapt to any situation over time. And that is the key. You may need some time to figure out what you want to do next. We humans are also occupational beings. Which means for us to stay mentally and physically well we need to ‘do” something, especially those things we enjoy doing. The ‘take home” message here is to find ways to keep busy, that enrich your life and give you a sense of purpose. You may just want to start by reading all those books you have been promising yourself to read during your busy working life.
If you have retired at 65, the good news is that for many, 65 is the new 55. So you have plenty of time to experiment and find out what works for you. The bad news is that you may be experiencing a little bit of grief and loss. This is understandable. But if you think you might be, then you need to get support and manage your grief. (go to our section on Men and Loss, Support Systems and Coping Strategies.
Excerpt from Healthtalk Australia – Peoples Profiles – Chris
Chris believes it is particularly important for men to have interests outside of work that can be pursued into older age to keep them engaged physically and mentally, It’s difficult if you retire and I know plenty of blokes who’ve just stopped work, they’ve gone on their around Australia trip or whatever it is and then come back and think ‘What now?’
They haven’t really thought about it and their spouses get sick and tired of them being at home doing nothing.
It can be anything, it doesn’t matter what it is, it can be woodworking, whatever takes your fancy, playing golf. I know guys who play golf three times a week, that would just drive me up the wall but they love it and that’s what they do and that’s their thing, that’s great it can be anything.
I also think doing something more mentally engaging is important and that’s why a lot of artistic people like writers and painters and muso’s and so on go on into their 80’s and 90’s still doing those sorts of things because it’s those creative things that engage your mind. With something like golf it’s great physically and getting your handicap down or whatever you do with golf but it’s good to have other things that make you think about the things that is what is really important.
If you feel you are not managing the loss of your working role very well. Please go to the “support for you means a mate or two” section.
We also have some useful information and resources within Your Life – Your Rights on topics such as Planning ahead, Your Pension, and relocating.
Your Role as Husband and Carer/Son and Carer
Once married with children we all have a carer role. Especially when our spouse or child is sick or needing help with something. That role doesn’t change as you age but it can become more demanding. According to a paper written by CarersNSW 83% of male primary carers aged 65 and over care for a spouse, compared to 70% of female primary carers in the same age group. The second most common caring arrangement among male carers is caring for a parent. Male Carers are also more likely to have a disability themselves…possibly due to a higher average age or because of a greater need for formal support.
This paper also highlights that being male; you most likely don’t self-identify as a Carer but simply as a husband or son. But traditionally adult husbands and sons do not provide the same intensity of care to their spouses or parents as when participating in a primary ‘carer’ role. There is a co-dependence that happens within a marriage that becomes stronger as we age. You have your tasks, she has hers – it works like clockwork. But all of a sudden you are doing more and more for her and less and less for yourself. It stands to reason something will eventually need to give. Better to avoid it in the first place don’t you think?
If you are truly managing your Carer role, with no ill affect’s to your physical, mental or social wellbeing, that is perfect. Just remember that help is at hand if things change. You just have to work out what you want help with and then arrange it (or get someone else to arrange it, you’re busy enough!)
BUT! and this is a big but, if you suspect you are experiencing some negative health effects, in any of these domains, there are government subsides and private services that can help you out. Many of you could seek a little help from your friends and neighbours if you aren’t already.
Speaking to your GP is always a good place to start. Don’t have time? Then ask him/her to make a house call.
Don’t lose sight that You are the best Manager of You, and the best thing you can do when managing the care for your loved one is to make sure you look after yourself. Why? Because if you become unwell or put your wellbeing at risk, who will then provide them care?
Signs that indicate you should delegate some duties:
- Feelings of anxiety and excessive worry for your future
- Sleep deprivation
- Low mood, apathy, loss of joy
- Seeing your spouse/parent as a patient, not your wife or parent
- Loneliness or isolation from social events and friends
- Loss of sense of self
- Feeling overwhelmed or unsure you are doing things right
- Crankiness or irritability towards the one you care for
- Increased drinking or smoking or eating
- Loss of appetite
- Putting off seeing your GP, medical specialist or prescribed medical procedures/surgery
- Increased or aggravated pain due to manual handling
- Memory issues – (your brain does not work when it is tired and stressed)
Examples of help available for your spouse/parent:
- Medication assistance
- Meal preparation
- Domestic Cleaning
- Personal care
- Chronic and Complex Care management
- Social outings
- Installation of home modifications or equipment
- Dementia assistance
Examples of help available to you:
- All of the above (if eligible)
- Short and Long term carer respite (to take a break, enjoy leisure, re-boot)
- Lawn Maintenance and gardening
- Carer Support
- Chronic and Complex Care Management
- Mental Health Support
- Education/Assistance from allied health professionals to help you manage your wellbeing as well as improve your carer role. (See our section on Occupational Therapy)
Please go to our section ‘Help at Home’ to learn more about available services and how to get them started. Or contact Shelly, our Community Occupational Therapist at [email protected], who will be happy to help you.
SUPPORT FOR YOU – MEANS A MATE OR TWO
To protect your mental health and wellbeing you need to establish your support networks. You are all individuals. Some may feel more comfortable with women friends. Some may not. Some may find it easier than others to share their feelings. Support and wellbeing comes in many different forms.
As mentioned above, support may mean giving you a break through respite. Respite means having someone care for your spouse/parent (do the things for them that you would normally do) so you can make time to do the things that ‘feed your soul’. It doesn’t matter much what you do. Whether fishing, golfing, playing bowls, scanning the aisles of Bunnings, learning to knit or having a cuppa with a neighbour. The important thing is that you enjoy doing it, and even better, are not alone while you are doing it.
If you are a blokey bloke – don’t under estimate the support of your mates. Blokey blokes have a unique way of saying a lot often by not saying anything at all. A quote in summary: ‘Silence isn’t empty – it is full of answers’.
However, if you are a mate of someone and you suspect they might be experiencing a ‘rough time’. You can help by just seeing them a bit more, or give them a bit of advice if you have experienced something similar and found something that worked for you.
Let me explain…
Example of a female getting social support;
Sally: Hi Marge, it’s me Sally. I’m going to kill him, no honestly. If I have to change one more sheet in the middle of the blinkin’ night I’ll put a pillow over his head. Honestly I haven’t slept in weeks.
Marge: Sally, you don’t mean it, you adore him. You do sound tired though. I know how you feel, my Fred is always losing something and he expects me to always blinkin’ know where it is. Fred will be OK for a while on his own for an hour, how about I pop over for a cuppa. You can tell me all about it…….. Sally instantly feels better.
Example of a male (Fred) getting social support at Bowls.
Fred: Hi Barry
Barry: Hi Fred, how’s things?
Fred: Oh, you know; same
Barry: Yeah I know mate, can be tough.
Barry: I got respite, it helps
Fred: Might think about it.
Fred: How about those Knights winning
Barry: Yeah, good game.
Fred: Nice chatting Barry
Barry: Yeah nice chatting Fred.
Fred feels better.
If it is not for you, you don’t need a lot of dialogue to feel supported. You just need someone to be there and to do something with and from time to time an opportunity to get some useful advice. But sometimes you will need to ask for it – so make the first move. Other times you may need to make more ‘mates’.
DON’T FEEL YOU HAVE A ‘SUPPORT SYSTEM’? – WELL LET’S FIND ONE
You could join a Men’s Shed? The modern Men’s Shed is an updated version of the shed in the backyard that has long been a part of Australian culture. Not all Men’s Sheds are the same: there are 22 local sheds listed with Men’s Sheds in the Hunter region and not all are run the same.
You may have the opportunity to;
- Make furniture
- Restore bicycles for local schools
- Make cubby houses for Camp Quality
- Share your skills and wisdom with young men
- Have a cuppa and a chat
- You might learn to cook or increase your computer skills – you just might teach someone else
To find out which men’s shed is closest to you within the Newcastle/Hunter regions, Click here . Gift them a call and see what they have to offer you.
Not interested in joining a Men’s Shed? There are several other ‘meet up’ opportunities in Newcastle such as:
- The Newcastle and Lake Macquarie Social Group
- The Dog lovers Social Group
- Nature and You
- Newcastle creative writing
- Newcastle Singing Meetup
- Car clubs
- Computer Pals- Newcastle
Think about what you enjoy doing, what makes you feel better after doing it and then go searching or get help to find a group who also share the same interests. There are many out there. There are several other social/active groups listed on our “Participation for Wellbeing” page.
Men and Bereavement – Life After Loss:
Although the death of a loved one is something everyone will experience some time in their life, we rarely are prepared when it happens. Even if they were profoundly unwell, it still comes as a shock. It may be you experiencing the grief or someone you know. The following information is to provide information and strategies to help you manage your grief or support a mate with their loss.
Grief is a life adjusting period. It enforces you to adapt to the changes in your life, reflect on your past and plan for the foreseeable future. How we experience grief is different for everyone and there is no definite time that we should grieve for. Some people grieve straight away. Other’s may find grief hits them many months later. What is important for you is to not go through grief alone. Grief is a process that you will need to work through. It is not something that you will be able to ignore or be stoic about. It is important to recognise when the symptoms of grief become unmanageable and potential harmful to your wellbeing and mental health.
The National Association of Loss and Grief (NSW) Inc, defines symptoms of grief as follows:
- Feelings of anger (at self and/or others)
- Irritability (over reacting)
- Immense sadness
- Loss of appetite
- Frustration and helplessness
- Disbelief and confusion
- Preoccupation with dying
- Loss of hope and dreams
- Sleeplessness and headaches
- A change in routine behaviour e.g. socialising/sport
- Not looking after themselves or their appearance
- Excessive consumption of alcohol
- Cutting themselves off from others and not attending social and family occasions
Other Reasons you may experience Grief:
Grief is how we feel after any loss. Not just after losing a loved one. The grief you experience and the support you may need to manage it, is just as valid. For example:
- After retirement
- After divorce/separation
- The death of a pet
- After serious illness and/or the loss of independence
COPING AFTER BEREAVEMENT
According to Mensline Australia, it is not uncommon for men to feel that they need to be self-reliant or suppress their feelings of grief. ‘How your father expressed and dealt with his emotions will likely influence how you do”.
Why is it so important that you find a way to manage and express your emotions and grief?
Because research shows that men who don’t are at a higher risk of:
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Increased Mental and Physical health issues
- Relationship difficulties
- Increased alcohol consumption
Examples of Coping Strategies
The following information is based on information from Mensline.org.au, Betterhealth.vic.gov.au and NALAG. Managing Grief is not prescriptive, which means there is no set way to do it. It is important to experience grief your way, as long as you are not hurting yourself or others.
- If you don’t feel like talking or are uncomfortable with demonstrated acts of affection (hugging) etc. Be honest. Say ‘thank you” but I do not want to talk about it or, I appreciate your care but right now I just need to be on my own. Your friends and family will understand
- Be kind to yourself – don’t beat yourself up if you are not managing as well as you feel you should. However, if your behaviours are impacting on your overall wellbeing, it is time to self-manage and put strategies in place, which may include getting professional support
- If you are an older man, chances are you will have friends who have also experienced loss and grief. Confide in them. They will understand what you are experiencing and may have good advice
- If you deal with grief and your emotions by being ‘busy”. Then find ways to get busy, preferably not alone. (see our section on support for you). Try to do something that you enjoy
- If you can, be with family. You don’t necessarily have to talk about your feelings. But reminiscing after loss can be a positive experience for you and your family
- Set up new routines. Having daily routines will help you ‘get going” each day
- Fill the void – sometimes being surrounded by people you don’t know can be helpful. You could start having breakfast or lunch at a local café. Take your time and read the paper or a book. Soon it will feel familiar and a place you will look forward to visiting each day
- Play music more often at home while you are doing daily tasks, or when doing the cross word. Music fills the quiet and reduces loneliness. Music can also be more motivating or mood uplifting that the television
- Try not to miss meals. This is especially important if you are have diabetes. If you live alone. Make each meal part of your routine. Eg. Arrange the time of your meal to coincide with something you like to watch on TV; such as the morning or evening news. Set the table. If you are physically able prepare a meal do so. Pulling something out of the freezer and microwaving it is convenient and takes no effort. A microwaved meal also may not give you as much satisfaction or occupy your time as well as preparing a meal can. Making a meal doesn’t have to be complicated
- Look after yourself as best you can. Fatigue is a very common bi-product of grief/loss. Fatigue and lack of nutrients can affect your immune system and make you prone to illness. So rest, eat and hydrate for nourishment, go for a walk or some other activity for exercise
Depression & Anxiety
The following information is based on information from the Beyond Blue and the Mensline website Don’t forget that any words in blue will link you to another site or portal for more information. According to Beyond Blue ‘older people are more likely to experience contributing factors for depression and anxiety such as physical illness or personal loss’.
Whether you, or someone you know is, experiencing Anxiety, Depression or a combination of both, it is important to remember that there is nothing to be ashamed of, it is not a sign of weakness and there are resources to help you. Depression and Anxiety are serious medical conditions, just as diabetes is, and are usually triggered by some kind of life experience or event. Although sometimes the cause may not be obvious. The important thing is to get support as soon as you can.
WHAT IS DEPRESSION?
Depression is feeling intensely sad, low or apathetic for long periods of time (from weeks to years). Unlike the occasional low mood, Depression is a serious condition that can affect all aspects of your wellbeing.
Triggers for Depression
Some risk factors which may trigger the onset of Depression, include:
- Increases in physical health problems/conditions
- Chronic pain, side effects from medications
- Personal loss
- Social isolation
- Significant changes in living arrangements
- Loss of independence
Sometimes there is no ‘one’ thing – it is a combination of things that have built up over time.
According to Beyond Blue symptoms can include:
- Withdrawing from family/friends
- Decreased sense of enjoyment
- Negative self thoughts
- Out of character moodiness, irritability or anger
- Sense of hopelessness
- Increased fatigue (sleeping for long periods during the day)
- Memory problems
- Loss of appetite
Men are more likely to recognise the physical symptoms, rather than the emotional signs of depression. Physical signs include feeling tired all the time or changes in your weight. You may feel more agitated and angry. You may lose interest in the things you usually enjoy, whether that is playing golf, gardening, chatting to your neighbours or strolling around your neighbourhood.
If you or someone you know is showing symptoms of depression, don’t “shrug it off” in the hope it will go away. It is so important that medical assistance and support is provided at the very onset. Why? Because then you will have a better chance of managing your symptoms and recovering sooner.
WHAT IS ANXIETY?
Anxiety is more than just feeling stressed or worried. It is normal to feel stressed or anxious when in stressful situations. Anxiety is when these anxious feelings don’t go away or when feelings of anxiety occur with no defining cause. Just like depression, Anxiety is a serious medical condition that if left untreated will affect your wellbeing and ability to cope with daily life.
Symptoms of Anxiety
According to Beyond Blue, it is common for symptoms of anxiety to go unrecognised for those in their senior years. Often symptoms can develop gradually over time and is not uncommon to experience multiple symptoms. For example:
- Urges to perform certain rituals in a bid to relieve anxiety
- Difficulty making decisions
- Being startled easily
- Feeling overwhelmed or fearful
- Dread (such as fearing that something bad is going to happen)
- Constantly tense or nervous
- Uncontrollable or overwhelming panic
- Increased heart rate/racing heart, nausea, stomach pain
- Difficulties sleeping
Unsure if you are experiencing Depression/Anxiety or a mixture of both? Click here and complete Beyond Blue’s self-checklist. Place a tick in the appropriate boxes and be as truthful with yourself as you can. Afterwards you will receive a score and an indicator of what you may be experiencing. The site will also provide advice as to what you can do and who can see next for help if you need it.
WHERE TO GET HELP – TODAY!
Firstly, talk to someone you trust, it doesn’t matter if it is a friend, family member or your GP. The important thing is to ask for help. If you prefer you can find support on the support service page of Beyond Blue or call them directly on 1300 224 636. This site can provide extensive information on the types of help available to you and who can provide it in your area.
Need an interpreter or have hearing difficulties: Click Here:
Other helpful resources include:
- Mens Line Australia – Discusses depression/anxiety from a males perspective and ways in which you can help yourself.
- The Black dog Institute have a large range informative Fact Sheets on all aspects of Depression and Anxiety that you can save or print out.
- The Depression in Older People Fact Sheet is especially informative and covers areas such as treatment, prevention and key points to remember.
- Life Line Australia – Call 24/7 on 14 11 14