Throughout life we all experience a mixture of emotions...happiness, sadness, stress, anger, excitement, etc. Depression is one of those emotions that happen in life, but it is not a normal part of aging (even though it affects a massive amount of the senior population). Like most ailments, depression can be treated in a variety of ways, but it’s most important to identify and address it with your loved one as soon as you notice changes. Let's take a look at how to identify depression, and how in home care can help seniors cope with depression.
Why are seniors at particular risk for depression?
Depression can be triggered by many life events, such as the death of loved ones, retirement, medical problems, stressful transitions...and the list goes on. Sadly, many seniors validate and rationalize the way they feel and in doing so they tend to isolate themselves. As your loved one ages, they generally need more care...therefore making them less independent and in their minds, more burdensome. Below we will discuss different signs of depression and what you can do to help.
Common signs of depression includes an array of emotions such as a persistent sadness, hopelessness, cynicism, worthlessness and feeling "empty" - these symptoms usually last over a few weeks. These emotions also translate to actions or lack thereof. For example, your loved one may lose interest in activities they previously enjoyed, experience loss of appetite, have difficulty sleeping or oversleeping, feel constantly fatigued, have difficulty concentrating and perhaps even entertain thoughts of suicide. Besides a depressive mental state, depression can also translate to physical ailments such as headaches, body aches, abdomen pain, or digestive problems.
What about Seasonal Affective Disorder? Read the blog here.
While dealing with a depressed loved one, the most important thing to remember is to be empathetic towards the way they are feeling. Imagine if the roles were reserved - how would you like to be treated? Offer support and understanding by letting them talk about their feelings. Chances are, seniors who require care might be uncomfortable projecting their thoughts on the ones they already depend so much on, so it's important to be sincere and empathetic.
How to help a loved one who is struggling with depression:
It is possible that your loved one will be disinterested in professional help at first (such as therapy), and there are a couple options to try that include getting daily exercise, being outside, increasing social support, and healthy eating to get them back on track. These are activities that PAN caregivers can assist with. It is also a good idea to monitor the medication they are taking in case some of the side effects are depression and fatigue. If that is the case, consult with medical professionals to adjust dosage, amount, etc.
Providing consistency can also enhance your loved one’s progress by having something to look forward to. For example, every Monday your loved one is visited by a family member, on Wednesday they are visited by a caregiver, on Saturday they attend a bingo social, Sunday night they meal prep for the week. Having a consistent schedule is beneficial to all parties, and it holds the senior accountable. It may be a good idea to involve an outside party or companionship caregiver to keep your loved one company when family is not available. Like most humans, seniors tend be on their best behavior while interacting with someone outside their family. While depression is not as fleeting as other emotional experiences, it is important to remind your loved one that, with time and treatment, the depression will pass.
Do you have an elderly family member struggling with depression?
If so, PAN caregivers may be a good solution to explore. Our CNAs and HHAs are highly qualified for companion care, and can assist elderly patients with activities of daily living as well. They can be on the lookout for changes in mental and emotional health, which can in turn provide your family with peace of mind...that your loved one is in great hands! Contact us today if we can help your family!