Fighting Back Against Depression in Seniors
Depression is not a normal part of aging, though it does affect millions of seniors. It is a mental health disorder, but one that can be effectively treated and managed. Left untreated, depression can make it more difficult for the elderly to recover from illness or injury and impact their quality of life. It can affect everything from appetite to socialization to physical activity. Recognizing the signs of depression in seniors and taking steps to help improve mental health can go a long way in supporting overall well-being.
Signs of Depression in the Elderly
While sadness is a common sign of depression, it is not always evident in older adults. Some may experience feelings of sadness, while others do not. Instead, they may feel more helpless or hopeless depending on their situation. They may also feel as though they are a burden on their family. Here are a few other common signs to be aware of:
- Changes in appetite
- Changes in sleeping (insomnia or excessive sleep)
- Lack of energy
- Lack of interest in previously enjoyable activities
- Poor personal hygiene
- Memory problems
- Complaints about aches and pains not associated with other conditions
If you do notice any of these signs, it is important to talk to your aging parent as well as their healthcare provider about your concerns. They should be evaluated for depression so that proper steps can be taken to manage the condition. It is also important to mention any medications they may be on because depression can be a side effect of some drugs.
Natural Ways to Combat Depression
There are many ways that you can help your senior to boost their mood and reduce risk of depression.
Reduce Isolation: Many seniors live alone and may have trouble getting to and from activities. They may also have limited visitors. Try to ensure that your loved one has access to opportunities to socialize and transportation to get there. Help them to coordinate lunch with friends, trips to church, participation in community events, and visits with family. Also, encourage family and friends to visit them at home as well. Remind them of how much fun they can have with others.
Promote Physical Activity: Exercise is a great way to boost mood because it releases endorphins. Encourage your loved one to sign up for fitness classes at the local senior center or rec center, go on walks together, take them to the pool, or try some yoga. Staying active is also beneficial for joints, muscles, balance, and coordination – all important components of mobility.
Try Something New: Exploring a new hobby can help ward off depression because it keeps the mind actively involved and challenges seniors to learn new things. They can experience the joy of doing something they enjoy and seeing the progress as they get better at it. This can be very rewarding. Plus, it can help them to make new friends who have similar interests.
Coordinate In-Home Care: Sometimes depression can manifest from illness, injury, or disability. Having an in-home care provider who can support seniors with non-medical needs such as planning and preparing meals, arranging trips out into the community, completing light housekeeping, getting in and out of bed or ready for the day, and providing general companionship and conversation can make a positive difference. Seniors are able to maintain their independence and age in place more confidently and comfortably while also being able to socialize. This can help support improved mental health and decrease feelings of depression.