Combatting Depression In The Elderly

combatting depression in the elderly

While it’s true that depression and feelings of loneliness are common in the senior population, there is much we can do to minimize or prevent these feelings. The first step is taking care of primary care needs, ensuring there aren’t physical factors at work such as an undiagnosed medical condition, negative side-effects from medication(s), or that something as simple as dehydration or malnutrition isn’t at work.

Then you can move on to other, proactive ideas to promote positive thoughts and emotions, regular human contact, social interactions, and participation in activities your loved one enjoys.

A Step-By-Step On Combatting Depression

Depression can affect anyone at any age. So, here are 5 steps to take when you think the elderly person in your life has depression.

Step 1: Find a physician who specializes in geriatric medicine

If your senior loved one has a true connection with his/her current physician that’s fine. However, that may not be the case. If the relationship isn’t positive, or feels more like “business as usual,” than true “healthcare” – shop around.

The baby boomer generation’s progression into the golden years has created a more significant number of physicians specializing in geriatric care. Check-in with the insurance carrier, ask friends and family or have a conversation with the local senior center to see if they have any referrals or recommendations. You can also search online.

Then, schedule an appointment for a general physical, to express any concerns you may have, and to run through the patient’s current medical history and prescriptions. See if anything shows up as a potential contributor to your loved one’s depression or anxiety.

Read, Communicating with Your Elderly Parent’s Doctor, for tips and strategies on how to stay in touch and engaged with your parent’s healthcare provider(s).

Step 2: Ensure basic needs are met

If you aren’t physically able to visit an aging parent or grandparent, they may be “shining you on” when you speak to them on the phone. If you live far away, we highly recommend scheduling a visit or having someone you know in the area perform a “wellness check.” Read, 7 Signs Your Senior Loved One Needs Help, to learn more about the “red flags” indicating support needs to be brought in.

You may determine it’s time to enlist the help of a licensed caregiving agency to send someone in once or more a week to check-in, offer companionship, run errands or for grocery and meal planning services. Ultimately, these services are tailored to the senior’s needs, and services can be augmented or shifted as time goes on.

Step 3: Honor their sadness and grief

We want to be clear that combatting depression or feelings of sadness doesn’t mean “just hoping they’ll go away.” Seniors are processing decades of life grief, trauma, and loss. The loss of a spouse and members their close friend groups or peers creates more loss and grief. It’s important for them to find ways to express those feelings – whether that is with you, a support group, a caregiver, a therapist, or all-of-the-above.

Studies show that reminiscence therapy alleviates depression and angst in seniors with dementia, and it’s just as helpful for seniors without it.

Step 4: Keep seniors active and engaged in their community

When you consider the list of things that happen when we age (vision/hearing loss, mobility loss, inability to do the things we love without help, etc.), it’s no wonder seniors get depressed. The key is to ensure that they remain active and engaged, doing the things they love to the best of their ability.

Do all you can to ensure your senior has access to:

Step 5: Help them feel wanted, needed and productive

Seniors living alone often feel as if their life has little to no value, and that’s a depressing thought for anyone. There are plenty of ways to combat that mentality, and it involves some action on your part or that of a caregiver. First, try to involve seniors in your household’s seasonal rhythm and activities so they are more than just a guest. Second, all that extra time on their hands can be put to good use in the community via volunteer hours. Read, Volunteer Opportunities for Seniors are a Win-Win for Everyone, for tips on how to get your senior involved.

Combatting Depression Is Something We Can Help With

Does it feel like companionship or professional caregiver support would help to combat depression for your senior loved one? Contact us here at HomeAide Home Care to schedule an in-home assessment and consultation. These meetings are always free, no-strings-attached, and are a valuable way to learn more about how to create longterm care plans for seniors desiring to age-in-place as independently – and contentedly – as possible.

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