Loneliness pushing Chandigarh’s elderly into depression

According to a psychiatrist, the most common reason that is causing depression among elderly people is their children settling abroad leaving their parents alone or at the mercy of servants and relatives.

punjab Updated: Sep 17, 2017 11:07 IST
Tanbir Dhaliwal
Tanbir Dhaliwal
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
depression,symptoms of depression,PGI Chandigarh
The initial symptoms of depression are a sombre mood, sleep disorder and body aches. (Shutterstock)

For the past six years, he has not heard the voice of his children who have settled abroad. Separated by his wife, 60-year-old Singh lives alone in his bungalow with servants, who often abuse him. Loneliness has led him to severe depression.

It has come to such a pass that Singh has tried committing suicide thrice and has undergone electric shock therapy. He says, “Unfortunately I could not succeed in committing suicide.”

Singh represents hundreds of elderly people residing in Chandigarh, who have been left fending for themselves by their children at an age when they need them the most.

They are lonely, dependent and vulnerable to abuse. Doctors say more number of elderly people are visiting city hospitals not only with physical injuries, but with depression, dementia and other mental health problems. Reason: they are either left alone or are not taken care of, with affection and care.

From 580 cases in 2008 to 1,488 in 2016

At the psychiatry department of the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), their number has doubled in the last nine years. The number of new elderly patients registered at the PGI’s psychiatry OPD was 580 in 2008 and more than doubled to 1,488 in 2016.

“Elderly people constitute over 20% of the psychiatry OPD. We examine at least 25 elderly patients daily. More than 50% of them have depression while 20-30% have dementia,” said Dr Sandeep Grover of PGI’s psychiatry department.

He said the current trend is changing. “Earlier, they were accompanied by their children but now the majority of the elderly people either visit the psychiatry OPD alone or are accompanied by servants,” said Dr Grover.

Talking about the symptoms, Dr Sandeep said the initial symptoms are a sombre mood, sleep disorder and body aches.

“The most common reason, which is causing depression among elderly people is their children settling abroad leaving their parents alone or at the mercy of servants and relatives. The elderly also face age-related medical complications and financial constraint,” said the psychiatrist.

Dementia is the second most common mental health disorder faced by the elderly people. “It starts with memory loss and affects their ability to concentrate. People have transferred the elderly people’s property in their names by taking advantage of their dementia,” said Dr Grover.

Like any other parent, Singh blames only himself for his children leaving him alone. “Maybe I could not change with the times,” Singh says, adding that the children must know that they will also grow old one day.

‘Pursue activities, learn new things’

Dr Ajit Avasthi, head, psychiatry department, PGIMER, shares how elderly can stay ‘young’ forever. “The elderly people must have a lot of physical activity and mental engagement. They must pursue things they could not do earlier. They must learn new things, use technology, memorise things and engage in the art of story-telling.”

“They must have social interactions and engage in social work. They should not live a retired life but they must pursue their hobbies, which will keep them young,” Dr Avasthi added.

First Published: Sep 17, 2017 11:00 IST