Yesterday we completed another successful webinar on assisted living. Thank you so much for continuing to tune in! During the webinar, we received many excellent questions. Unfortunately, due to time constraints, we were unable to answer them all. I wanted to take the time to answer one question that I found to be particularly important:
What are some warning signs of depression in the elderly, and what do I do if I think my senior is depressed?
Depression is extremely common in senior citizens and the elderly comprise a disproportionately large amount of the population who commit suicide each year. Looking for certain signs in your loved ones can be the key to helping them feel better and to get their mental health back on track.
First, it is often counter productive to ask anyone if they are depressed. The word depression can have a certain stigma to it. Therefore, I find it better to ask about changes in their interests or their daily routine. As my father aged, I began to notice that he was not himself. He was not sleeping well, his personality had changed slightly, and his appetite had decreased. I recognized these as obvious signs of depression in my normally positive and full-of-life father. However, my dad was a proud man who was used to helping others and had difficulty accepting help for himself. When his doctor asked him if he was depressed, my dad quickly denied it. We found a doctor who understood how difficult the aging process can be, and he asked my dad a different set of questions to determine that my father was indeed showing signs of depression. After my dad was put on mild mood stabilizing medication, he quickly returned to his old self.
It is essential to be an advocate for your senior and pay attention to changes in their mood and behavior, whether they are big or small. Signs that the senior citizen in your life may be depressed might include: fatigue, inability to concentrate, decreased memory or confusion, loss of interest, weight loss or loss of appetite, increased pain or discomfort, sleep disturbances, social isolation, loss of self-worth and talk of suicide. Listen to your senior’s complaints and make note of any changes you see in their behavior.
If you have seen any of these symptoms in your senior or loved one, it is time to get them help. You should take them to a doctor, who might prescribe a low dose anti-depressant.
If your senior is down, but not clinically depressed, there are plenty of ways to help boost their mood. If your senior is physically able, they can volunteer at a local animal shelter or help an elderly neighbor who may need a little more assistance to help them feel useful. You can also suggest that your senior get a pet. Having a pet to look after will keep them company and help them to get exercise, which is an additional mood booster. Many seniors are lonely or bored. Remind them they are loved with pictures of family and frequent visits and phone calls. Keeping your senior busy will be the best thing for their mind and body.
Depression in senior citizens can be detrimental to their health and well being. But these simple tips can help you take good care of your loved ones.