I am Maheshwari Jain, a 60 year old retired teacher living in Anand. I live with my 68 year old sister who suffers from diabetes. My mother suffered from depression and was bedridden for about 30 years. In order to take care of her and my sister, I did not marry as there would be no one who would take care of her. My mother died before 10 years. After that I had to take care of my father who was aging. He died about 5 years back. Since then, my sister occupies my attention. I retired two years back and am living comfortably on my pension. At the moment I am feeling tense about my sister. I cannot go out for more time because she is at home and for the fear that if something happens; I will not be able to forgive myself. Who will take care of her after I am not there? Although she has never manifested any problem due to the diabetes, it is well under control with the medications, I am worried. Please advise.
You have a service attitude. Your whole life has been spent in looking after other people at the cost of your own progress. Now, when you are aging, you are worried because you will not be able to fulfill your service attitude with your sister being the object. You are feeling depressed out of this guilt of not being able to take care of your sister. However, you must now realize that it is time that you looked after your own self. Your nobility is the culprit for your own depression. The first thing to do is to employ a caretaker for both of you. Since both you sisters are living alone and are aging, you may need someone to take care of both of you. She could be a young – middle-aged lady who will live with you, do the household chores, and give you company for any occasions. With her being there, you might be able to leave your sister for a prolonged period of time and go out. The second thing to do is to get into a religious devotion. Religion is a great pastime in this age. Religion will also help you understand the finiteness of your body and your limitations as a human being. These are necessary to ward off the anxiety that you must take care of your sister till her death and feel guilty if not be able to do so out of your own illness. Religion will also help you adjust to the fact that your life has been spent in a service attitude and how to lead your life in the future. The next thing to do is to be able to make your sister independent in her life. If your concern is that she will not be able to look after herself in your absence, that is the reason not to infantilize her more. You should start helping her look after herself and not do the things yourself. This will help her adjust to your absence. You may feel that this is a neglect, but it is not so. This is so that she can have minimal difficulty if you are gone for a longer period. For the immediate problem of sadness and anxiety, your doctor could possibly prescribe you a mild antidepressant and mild anti-anxiety medication. This would help you in the immediate present. The most important part in order to avoid the depression is what you now do in your life. Your depression also comes out from the loneliness that you have. The surface of service attitude is masking a life which is blank in the personal sense. Gradually you should start addressing that part of your life also. You should take up a hobby – either of some handicraft or reading. You should also go out more often as your physical health is fine at the moment. If you are able to take up an activity that brings you in contact with more people, this would help you. An activity that would go with your service attitude would be to give voluntary service in a non-governmental organization and work for the people. Having taken care of your sister and employing a caretaker, your focus should be on getting through the rest of your life with you as the focus of activity and enjoyment.