Older adults have to face painful losses such as their spouse, friends or their own independence or health. Grief over these loses is normal but it can also lead to long-lasting depression, especially for those without a strong support system.
Depression is common among the elderly but only a small percentage get the help they need. Depression doesn’t have to be a necessary part of the aging process. Senior citizens can have happy, full lives despite difficult changes. While many depressed seniors may be reluctant to talk about what they are going through or ask for help, you can learn to spot the signs of depression and insure your loved ones’ health – mentally, physically and emotionally.
The major signs of depression in seniors include:
- Losing interest in hobbies or pastimes
- Reluctance to leave the house or spend time with friends
- Weight loss
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Feelings of worthlessness and self-loathing
- Increased use of alcohol or drugs
- Fixation on death; suicidal thoughts or attempts
However, some depressed seniors will say they don’t feel sad at all. In fact, physical complaints such as arthritis pain, tiredness or headaches are often symptoms of depression in the elderly. If your loved one exhibits these clues, they may be depressed even if they don’t feel sad:
- Unexplained aches and pains
- Anxiety and worry
- Lack of interest in personal care (skipping meals, forgetting medications, neglecting personal hygiene)
If you feel the senior you love is depressed, it can be difficult to discuss with them. Some older adults don’t believe depression is a real illness or are too embarrassed to ask for help, as they were raised in a time when mental illness was misunderstood.
However, you can make a difference just by offering emotional support. Listen to your loved one with patience and compassion. Don’t criticize feelings expressed, but point out realities and offer hope. You can also help by seeing that they get and accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Help your loved one find a good doctor, accompany him or her to appointments, and offer moral support.
Warman Home Care providers can provide your elderly loved one with much-needed companionship. Even if your loved ones are independent, an attentive caregiver to encourage them to get out of the house and do the things they enjoy can transform their quality of life. Learn more about our experienced team of in-home caregivers.