Dealing With Elderly Depression

When a person is suffering with depression, it is tough to sit idly by and watch. This is even tougher to do when it is one of your parents. Watching the people who have guided you throughout life suffer in any way can be difficult to deal with, especially when you know how happy and lively they were prior to this onset. You may wonder where their depression and/or lack of self-esteem stems from, but there are many things that can cause it when a person is aging.

Here are some of the common signs to look out for if you think someone you love is suffering from depression:

Mood swings.  If your loved one is happy and energetic one minute, but somber and sad the next, there could be an underlying issue, especially if you feel like the change in mood wasn’t really brought on by anything specific.

Changes in appearance. Sudden messy hair, no makeup, dirty clothes and the overall lack of care about one’s physical appearance can be a tell-tale sign of depression.

Antisocial behavior. Was your loved one the life of the family parties before and now you can barely even get them to attend? Staying indoors all day and not wanting company to come over can be another sign of depression in aging seniors.

Aging in general. Doctors appointments, sore muscles and joints, and memory loss can all play a toll on a person. Thinking about all the things they could do in their youth that they can’t do now, or just dealing with everyday aches and pains in general is another thing that can wear a person down.

Loss of a loved one. This is hard on anyone at any age, but can be especially difficult for the elderly, especially if it’s the loss of a spouse or child. When your children are finally grown and out of the house, it’s just you and your spouse. When they pass away, loneliness and depression is not uncommon. The loss of a child is not expected by any parent, so this is usually the toughest loss to cope with.

If you think one of your elderly relatives is suffering from depression, here are some of the ways you can help:

Create a support system. Make sure they know you are there for them. Stop by for dinners, play card games, watch television or just chat with them. If they are constantly being reminded of much they are loved and cared for, this may help pull them out of their slump.

Seek medication. Although they may put up a fight and it can seem like this is just another pill for them to add to their daily regimen, mental medication can be very beneficial. As long as their dosages are administered properly, medication can boost their moods and help them manage their depression.

Encourage their attendance at therapy. Venting to a professional can lift the weight off of a person’s shoulders. If your loved one doesn’t feel comfortable talking to you about their problems or thinks that they would be too much of a burden, seeking the help of a professional is a great idea. It allows them time to air their grievances and also gets them out of their home or living facility.

Avoid smothering them. It’s one thing to be there for your loved ones when they want to talk, but it’s another thing when you start taking over their daily tasks. Many older people like to continue to do their own chores and take care of their responsibilities. Offer to help them out, but don’t take over and do everything for them.

Set goals. Sit down with your loved one and create a list of small goals that they can achieve to help overcome their depression. Work together to create the list and these goals will give them something to look forward to.

In general, you do not want to let your loved one suffer or think that they are suffering alone. If you see any signs or symptoms of depression, do not ignore them. Do what you think is most appropriate for your loved one and definitely get them help. While some may be able to snap out of it on their own, this is not always the case and it’s better to be proactive.

About the Author

Ruth Folger Weiss is a blogger for Blueberry Hill Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center, a nursing home in Beverly, MA.

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  • Patrick Philbrick

    Nicely done Ruth. This is a huge problem with our aging population. Here is an additional resource for your readers:
    http://blog.athomecaresacramento.com/Elderly%20Depression