Spotting the Signs of Depression in Older Relatives
Are you worried that an older friend, relative or neighbor has become depressed? Approximately 20% of Americans suffer from depression and it’s not just a case of having the blues or grieving the loss of a loved one. Depression is a treatable medical condition. However, quite often people overlook the symptoms of depression and end up going untreated. But clinical depression is not a normal response. It’s a serious illness that requires treatment, whatever a person’s age.
A normal part of getting older?
Depression is not an inevitable part of aging that people must simply accept. In fact, research shows that older adults tend to feel more satisfied with their lives, regardless of their physical health. But if depression goes untreated, it can cause other serious health problems including insomnia, malnutrition and could even contribute to some cases of dementia. A significant problem is that older people often don’t want to ask for help. They might feel embarrassed or just assume how they feel is a normal part of getting older or a symptom of another condition. This is why it’s so important for relatives, neighbors and friends to watch out for signs of depression and understand how they can help.
Signs to look out for
Some of the signs that an older person is suffering from depression could include:
• Sadness, feelings of despair or a loss of self-worth
• Unexplained aches and pains
• Lack of motivation or energy and a loss of interest in socializing or hobbies
• Weight loss or loss of appetite and neglecting their personal care
• Difficulty sleeping
• Increased use of alcohol or other drugs
• Focused on death
• Memory problems
Helping a depressed senior
If an older friend, relative or even neighbor that you care about has become depressed, there are a number of things you can do that can make a big difference. Even just listening to them can help a great deal. You can also help by making sure that they speak to their doctor and get a diagnosis and the right treatment. You can also:
• Invite them out with you. If a person keeps active, then they are less likely to feel depressed. You could go the cinema, out for lunch, take a trip to the museum or even take a class together.
• Organize regular social activities. From visiting friends and family, to group outings or getting involved in local events, can all make a huge difference in overcoming the feeling of loneliness and isolation. If they refuse to go, then persist, although gently.
• Encourage them to join you for family walks or dog walks. Exercise can make a huge difference and act as an effective antidepressant.
• Plan and prepare healthy meals. Encourage them to eat well, even if that means you cook with them or help to prepare food that they can just reheat. Depression can get worse if the person has a poor diet. So, make sure they are getting plenty of fruit and vegetables, protein and whole grains.
• Make sure they take their medications as advised. You may need to encourage them to follow the doctor’s instructions about taking their medication, or remind them when to take it.
• Watch out for any suicide warning signs. Get professional help straight away, if you think that the person is considering suicide.
Here is another article I recommend by our friends at Senior Advisors.
(Note from the editor: If a person is over 65 they can have their primary care physician order a psychiatric evaluation from your Home Health Agency of choice. Psych Home Care Nurses can evaluate, get back to the physician who can then decide if an antidepressant is appropriate. )
Post contributed by Sally Perkins