March 23, 2016

Senior Citizens and Depression

Helping the Elderly

As unfortunate as it may be, the aging process is one of those inevitable forces that eventually catch up with us. For some it is a time to relax and enjoy the many perks of retirement. However, many senior citizens have a tough time coping with the many changes that come with age. The changes include health complications, decreased mobility, death of loved ones, and even boredom from extra time now they may no longer work.

These changes can easily compound and grow, wreaking havoc on physical and mental faculties, and ultimately becoming a catalyst for a number of unhealthy side effects. One of the most prevalent side effects manifests as depression.

If you have noticed a loved one displaying signs of fatigue, hopelessness, loss of motivation, sadness, fixation on death, or any other red flags then chances are good that your loved one is suffering from depression.

One of the most important steps to helping anyone with depression is understanding it. Older people may suddenly find themselves without an aim in life because they no longer work. At an advanced age it is harder to change one’s lifestyle and so changing focus and priorities is very difficult to cope with. Many elderly people think they no longer have a purpose or a value, which seems absolutely crazy. They may even feel that they are a drain on others either through illness or the fact that they survive on welfare rather than a salary. Once you understand some of these causes you can help a senior to learn to cope and overcome their feelings of depression.

Depression plagues thousands upon thousands of people—both young and old—around the world. For the most part, depression can be effectively managed with counseling and medication. However, senior citizens coping with depression present an entirely different challenge. Increased medical complications and the lingering feeling of “the end” being near can act as catalysts, literally amplifying the underlying depression. While it may not be apparent, a depressed senior citizen—more often than not—requires a higher level of care or attention. There are two primary ways this is being done which we will discuss below:

Providing Care Yourself

If you have an elderly family member struggling with depression, one of the best ways to help them is to provide the extra love, care, and attention yourself. This method is highly effective because of the family bond already present between you and your loved one. You’re able to connect with him or her on a highly personal level, presenting a safe environment for them to open up, unleash emotions, and share feelings. Depression can literally drain away the motivation to seek help, which is why family members must be prompt and attentive, recognizing any changes in routine, emotion, and lifestyle. Even the most subtle of changes can signify depression.

Unfortunately, many people cannot just drop everything in their life to care for a loved one. As harsh as that may sound, the average person’s lifestyle can include a career, family, school, and a number of other aspects. To drop everything may not be an option. However, some still find a way to juggle their daily routines with caring for a depressed loved one. This might mean simply adjusting your daily schedule, or going as far as requesting a leave of absence from work. A leave of absence can result in a number of ramifications which are elaborated in the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Hiring a Home Care Agency

While most people would prefer to care for their loved ones themselves, the demands and obligations of work and home can complicate this exponentially. For this very reason, many people are entrusting the care and wellbeing of their loved ones to home care agencies and workers. Thankfully, many home care agencies have built outstanding reputations by providing care that is prompt, adaptive, and highly flexible. Many use advanced technology like home care software that makes it easier for everyone to stay informed about scheduling, drastically reducing paperwork time, which saves you money in the end. The real heroes of home care are the caregivers themselves. These individuals almost always endure a sporadic schedule where no day is the same as the last.

The demand for home care has skyrocketed over the last decade or so, resulting in an abundance of agencies. This industry saturation can simplify the hiring process exponentially since there is a good chance there are several agencies near you. Start by narrowing your search to the agencies closest to you. Next, go online and search for individual reviews of each agency. An agency will likely have both positive and negative reviews, making your discretion the ultimate judge of which agency best meets the needs of your loved ones.

Particular problems for elderly sufferers of depression

Many older people are not treated when they get depressed because of the differences in the symptoms they have and the fact that these symptoms may be confused by doctors due to side effects of medicines they may be taking.

Elderly people often suffer from depression for longer periods of time and this may be accompanied by other medical conditions. Heart attacks are a real threat and in addition to that, depression may decrease the possibility of recovering from illnesses that would not normally be so serious.

Suicide is also another major concern in elderly people especially those in their early and mid eighties. Depression is thought to one of the biggest reasons for this.

In the over 65s there are different life situations that can contribute to this problem. Often, either through the death of a partner or members of close family, an older person may have less help and support. They may also retire and go through many changes which may cause stresses and these may hide the symptoms of depression. Often then the biggest problem is that the fact that someone needs treatment can be missed.

Another problem is that an elderly person may make excuses for how they feel and not understand that they are in fact depressed and need help. If they have few friends and feel lonely or if they have an illness and feel sad or lacking motivation for any number of reasons, they think this is a normal consequence of age and their situation and so they don’t seek help. This can be devastating.

What can be done to help you or someone who is older to feel less depressed?

Socialise – get out and mix with people who have similar interests wherever possible. Don’t stay home alone.

Help others by volunteering.

Comedy – try to read funny books or watch funny programs or films. Laughter is the best medicine after all!

Get a pet – the responsibility, love and friendship from a pet is like gold!

Challenge your mind – do things which challenge you, including learning new things.

Physical activity – move when you can and take part in any activity you enjoy. Travelling is great as it is a pleasant change, new experience, involves exercise and learning.

Of course illness can limit your ability to do these things but there is always the possibility of doing something and anything can help improve the situation and feelings inside.