Proactive Ways to Deal with Depression in Seniors

By Ruby Cemental

Depression is becoming more common among seniors. It is important to be aware of the signs of depression in the elderly, to help them find the care and support they need. Here are a few signs to watch for and some ways to combat depression when you notice them.

Signs of Depression

1.  A change in appearance

If a senior who was once meticulous and neat in their appearance begins to look unkempt and disheveled, this could be a sign they've lost interest in themselves. Pay attention to the fit of their clothes, as loose and baggy clothing could be a sign of significant weight loss, due to loss of appetite, which is another sign of depression.  

2.  Rapid mood swings

If you notice that the senior's mood rapidly changes, this could be a sign of depression. If they fluctuate between being withdrawn, to being angry, to acting happy and then sad, this could mean they are dealing with emotions they are not capable of handling on their own. 

3. Antisocial behavior

Many seniors feel "worthless" as they are not able to do the things they once did. This is particularly apparent with male seniors who base much of their self-worth on their ability to work and provide for their family. This often leads to antisocial behavior. These seniors withdraw into themselves and prefer solitude to cope with their feelings, which leads to isolation, perpetuating their state of depression. 

4.  Grief and loss

As people age, they lose loved ones along the way. It is the natural progression of life, however, grief is a common emotion experienced by the elderly. This is most apparent when there is the loss of a spouse, sibling or close friend. The senior may feel lost without the person in their life. 

5. Change in seasons

The winter blues are real.Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) typically manifests itself during the fall and winter months each year. This form of depression can leave seniors with a loss of energy, loss of social interest, and an increase in mood swings. 

6. Trouble sleeping

Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep are common side effects. On the other hand, oversleeping and daytime sleeping can also be depression symptoms. Any changes to your loved one's normal sleep pattern are depression warning signs.

Treating Depression

If you identify any of these signs in yourself or a loved one, it is important to take steps to get support. There are ways to combat depression and to improve quality of life. Here are just a few:

  •  Visit with a doctor. A doctor may prescribe medication that can help. Depression can be a result of a chemical imbalance in the brain, and medication can help restore that balance. Additionally, current medications may have an effect on your overall dampened mood. 

  • Perform low-impact exercise. Exercising releases endorphins, which make your body and your mind feel good. Plus, exercise is great for keeping seniors active. 

  • Focus on activities you or a loved one enjoys. By doing things that you like, you can be more positive and find enjoyment again. 

  • See a therapist. A therapist specializing in working with elderly patients could help if you or your loved one is struggling with grief or loss and depressed as a result.

Taking time to learn more about the signs of depression in the elderly allows you to get your loved one the help they need. Knowing your senior is happy and satisfied can give you peace of mind and ensure they stay as healthy as possible. Reach out to your local Caring office to learn more about helping your loved ones remain happy at home.

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Tags: Mental Health