Depression is a mental and emotional disorder that involves a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. It is different from the mood swings that people regularly experience as a part of life. When a senior is suffering from depression, it is called Geriatric Depression. Seniors are more likely to have feelings of sadness and “blue” mood occasionally. This feeling does not always meet the full criteria for major depression. However, if left untreated, it can lead to major depression.
Depression in older adults if not quickly managed can reduce the quality of life, and it poses a risk of suicide. Nevertheless, with proper care from loved ones and care providers, a senior who suffers from depression can still maintain a high quality of life.
WHY DO OLDER ADULTS FALL INTO DEPRESSION?
There is really no single cause for depression in any age group. It was however reported that there could be a hereditary link to the disease. Nevertheless, as we grow older, the psychological, biological, and social factors that come with old age can increase the risk for depression. These can include:
Long term illness, chronic or severe pain, sensory impairment, damage to the body appearance due to surgery or sickness can all be risk factors to depression in older adults.
Shocking events such as abuse especially from loved ones or the recent death of friends, family members – spouse or partner, and pets are common pointers to depression in older adults.
Feeling isolated, living alone, a decline in a social circle due to deaths or relocation, mobility restrictions due to illness, or a loss of driving privileges can also be risk factors to depression in seniors.
Fear of death or dying as well as the panic of growing older and the challenges that come with it can also contribute to depression in older adults.
REDUCED SENSE OF PURPOSE.
Retirement, loss of identity, dignity, self-confidence, and financial security can also increase the risk of depression in elderly loved ones.
PROLONGED SUBSTANCE ABUSE
If the substance or drug abuse by seniors is not detected early enough by their families or caregiver, there may be a severe decline in quality of life and health. This is also a common factor in depression in older adults.
HOW DO YOU RECOGNIZE DEPRESSION IN OLDER ADULTS?
Seniors suffering from depression show certain signs and symptoms. Some of them include
-Feelings of despair
-Health issues with no perceptible cause
-Solitary behaviors and Social isolation
-Sleep disorder (difficulty falling asleep, oversleeping, or daytime sleepiness)
-Loss of self-worth (worries about being a burden to family and friends or feelings of worthlessness
-Loss of appetite
-Decline in personal hygiene
-Fixation on death and thoughts of suicide
-Slowed movement or speech
-Increased intake of alcohol or using drugs in secret
-Loss of interest in recreational activities or hobbies
-Lack of concentration
CARING FOR OLDER ADULTS WITH DEPRESSION
Caring for seniors living with depression can be challenging and stressful. This is because the very nature of depression can interfere with their ability and thoughts to seek help and their self-esteem. It can be even more difficult especially if they don’t believe depression is a real illness, too proud, ashamed to ask for assistance, or battling with the fear of becoming a burden to their families.
Here are some tips families and caregivers of seniors living with depression can employ to help their elderly loved ones come out of depression
- PROPER FEEDING
When caring for elderly loved ones living with depression, caregivers should plan and prepare healthy meals for them.
Their meal should contain the right proportion of vitamins needed to improve or manage their health conditions. A poor diet can make depression worse, so caregivers should make sure their loved ones eat rightly.
- SHOW THEM SOME SUPPORT
Caring for your elderly loved one who is depressed, you should make a difference by giving him or her emotional support. Lend a listening ear to your loved ones with patience, compassion and hug them often. Do not criticize their feelings, but point out realities and offer hope. You can also help by ensuring that your loved one gets an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Help to find a good doctor, accompany them to appointments, and offer moral support.
- HELP WITH SLEEPING PROBLEMS
Many seniors who live alone are prone to sleeping problems which can worsen depression. To prevent this, ensure that your elderly loved one keeps a regular sleep schedule and does not take daytime naps.
- WATCH FOR SUICIDE WARNING SIGNS
Seek immediate professional help early enough if you suspect that your loved one is thinking about suicide.
- HELP TO LIVEN THEIR SOCIAL LIFE
Invite your loved one out. Depression is less likely when one’s mind and body is active. Suggest activities you know your loved one will enjoy: walks, a trip to the movies—anything that provides mental or physical stimulation. You can also organize regular social activities such as group outings, visits from friends and family members. Visits to the local senior or community center can also help them fight isolation and loneliness.
- MONITORING THEIR TREATMENT AND MEDICATION
Encourage your elderly loved ones to follow through with treatment and ensure they take medications regularly and obey doctor’s orders in terms of dosage, lifestyle, and diet. Depression usually recurs when treatment is stopped too soon, so help your loved one keep up with their treatment plan.
Struggling with depression is much tougher for people who have lost their sense of purpose in life. Families, friends, and caregivers of seniors living with depression should help them find their sense of purpose, well-being, and safety by showing them love, care, and support. This will in a great deal help them keep the depression under control and improve their health conditions.
My name is Logan DuBose, and I am a senior medical student at Texas A&M College of Medicine. I am particularly interested in in-home medical and non-medical caregiving.
Are you available for a 30-minutes call this week or next? Myself and my colleagues are hoping to ask you some general questions about your experience working with the seniors in the home for a potential study topic we are pursuing.
Also, I can send questions beforehand if you would like or answer any questions about the meeting. I’m happy to follow with a calendar invite and Zoom link/cell number when ready to schedule – feel free to let me know a time that works best for you.
Thanks, and have a nice day!