5 Ways to Help Seniors with Depression
Although at least 6 million elderly adults report symptoms of depression each year, the fact that depression so common among the elderly does not mean it’s a normal part of aging. And although that number seems big, it may actually be much bigger—only about 10 percent of aging adults with clinical depression report their struggles and actually receive depression treatment. This is likely because of the stigma that still surrounds depression, as well as family members’ struggle to understand the signs and know how to get help.
If you are worried that your senior loved one may have depression, take heart and know that there is help, for you and for your loved one. Depression does not have to darken these precious golden years for your family. Try the following 5 ways to help seniors with depression and if you’re struggling with what to do next, contact At Home Personal Care for assistance: (703) 494-3989.
1. Know the Signs of Depression
The signs of depression in older adults are not so different from the signs you might notice in people of other ages. But it’s important to understand that your senior loved one may be reluctant to open up about their struggles with the deep sadness they’re experiencing, so be looking for the following signs:
- Changes in eating habits or appetite
- A change in sleeping habits or patterns (insomnia or the opposite—not wanting to get out of bed at all)
- Low energy levels that seem uncharacteristic for your loved one
- Loss of interest in activities and pursuits they used to really enjoy
- Withdrawing socially
- A noticeable decline in personal hygiene and self-care
- Memory problems not consistent with co-occurring medical conditions
- Reports of pain that are inconsistent with known medical conditions.
Keep in mind that some of these symptoms may also point to other conditions as well, so whether these are associated with depression or not, it’s important to encourage your loved one to take their health seriously and seek medical attention, one way or the other. Their medical provider should always be on the lookout for signs of depression so that it can be effectively treated to improve their quality of life.
2. Take them to Social Activities They Enjoy
Much recent research has established that helping seniors stay socially active can help them with both mental and physical health, boosting their sense of connection to friends, family and the community. This is critical because it combats the feelings many seniors have of growing isolation as they age. Isolation and feelings of loneliness lead to lack of purpose that can be a major trigger for depression. Try helping your loved one attend as many social gatherings as they feel comfortable with. Some potential social activities include:
- Exercise classes
- Teaching a class (sharing their experience or knowledge with others)
- Volunteering for causes they care about
- Going on senior outings and field trips
- Learning a new language, instrument or new skill they’ve always wanted to learn, but never had time for until now
- Attending church services or other meetings that inspire and comfort them
- Invite them to regular family gatherings, dinners and activities
If your family struggles to find a social activity your loved one enjoys, an in-home caregiver can also provide that social connection that may help them combat isolation and depression. Your home care team can also take them out to social events and classes when you are unable to.
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3. Build a Support Network
Successfully treating depression in seniors requires a multifaceted approach. In addition to seeking medical care for the chemical imbalances attached to depression, helping your loved one build a supportive network of friends, family and caregivers who can be there for them is critical. In addition to helping them attend social activities like those listed above, help them foster connections with friends, clergy, neighbors and family members who can check in with them frequently. Their home care team can also play a vital role in this support network, with in-home physical therapists, in-home occupational therapists and other caregivers who have experience in supporting seniors through the aging process. Their home care team can monitor for signs of depression and provide support and assistance throughout the day and the week.
4. Encourage Physical Activity
Research shows that increased physical activity can help reduce the impacts of depression. Exercise stimulates endorphins (the brain’s “happy chemicals”) and improves physical health simultaneously. Seek their doctor’s advice about what types of exercise would be safe and beneficial for your loved one and help them attend classes for those activities where they can exercise and meet other people at the same time. Again, your in-home physical therapy and home care team can also assist with these goals.
5. Promote Good Nutrition
Right next to physical exercise in importance for boosting mood and combatting depression is nutrition. As previously mentioned, changes in appetite can be a sign of depression. Often, when a senior is depressed, they don’t feel like preparing a healthy meal for themselves and may fall back on unhealthy processed foods, or they may just skip meals. Your home care team can provide great nutritional support for your senior loved one in times like these, providing companionship, a listening ear and helping preparing healthy meals that can improve physical nutrition and mood at the same time.
Lean on Your Northern Virginia Home Care Team
If your senior loved one struggles with depression, don’t go it alone. Our in-home caregivers support seniors with depression throughout Warrenton, Fredericksburg, Manassas, Prince William County, Arlington County, Fairfax County, Eastern Loudoun County, Orange County, Stafford County, Alexandria City, Spotsylvania County and Fauquier County.Get the support you and your senior loved one need to beat depression. Please reach out to our home care experts from At Home Personal Care in Northern Virginia today by calling (703) 494-3989. You’re not alone!
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