While depression can affect anyone, it is important to note that depression is not a normal part of aging. Symptoms of depression in someone who is elderly — including fatigue, loss of appetite and loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities — can be mistaken for the aging process. Unfortunately, these symptoms are a sign of depression, which affects an estimated 6.5 million seniors. If your elderly loved one is depressed, here are some ways you can help:
1. Remain Calm
Although you may be worried about your senior and eager to help them, becoming anxious and overzealous to find help may have the opposite effect. Remain patient and talk calmly with them on several occasions about what might be bothering them, or how they might be feeling. Listen without judgment and let them know that you are there for them no matter what.
2. Treat Any Physical Symptoms
Oftentimes, people become depressed if they are not getting adequate sleep. Sleep deprivation can also aggravate depression. Some seniors are more sensitive to drug side effects, so make sure to check to see if their medications could be causing any depressive symptoms. Also, make sure that your senior is getting enough healthy food and exercise. Exercise can be just as effective as antidepressants in relieving depression without any harmful side effects.
3. Engage Family and Friends
Sometimes, having a network and support system can help alleviate symptoms of depression. Loneliness is a major factor in depression among any age group, and giving your elderly loved one time and attention can help alleviate some of the depression symptoms. Create a schedule so that your loved one is not alone for long periods of time. Encourage social interaction as often as possible.
4. Help Them Take on a Hobby, Chore, or Task
Everyone wants to feel needed or valuable. Engaging in a new hobby that will make your senior feel connected to others or provide a service (such as knitting blankets for preemies in the hospital) can give them a renewed sense of purpose. Even assigning a task or chore, such as taking care of a dog or plant, can be a mood-booster. People want to feel useful and significant. Hobbies and tasks can help with that.
5. Gently Suggest Therapy
If, after all of your efforts, your elderly parent or loved one is still showing signs of depression, begin suggesting therapy. There are treatment options for depression, but aging loved ones are sometimes reticent to admit that they have a problem. Many options are available from talk therapy to medication to art or pet therapy. Visit with your loved one about how these different types of treatments can help their depression.
At Rocky Mountain Assisted Living, we are here to help you and your elderly loved one. If you find that your loved one may be interested in joining our group settings, participating in full activities, enjoying amenities and making new friends, please call us at (303) 835-9265 or visit us online today. We would love to visit with you about how we could be a part of your elderly loved one’s life.