Depression in Elderly Parents: How to Help
Depression can occur at any age and if it is not recognized and treated depression can be debilitating. Depression in the elderly is common, but it should never be considered a normal part of the aging process.
Depression in the elderly often is overlooked or untreated because people don’t understand that depression and aging do not go hand in hand.
Dealing with elderly parent’s depression is challenging and should be handled with patience and understanding. Lingering sadness, withdrawal, or overall loss of interest in life, are signs of depression that should not be ignored.
If you’re not sure how to deal with a depressed elderly parent, the following tips should help you and your parent understand some of the causes of depression and how to work through it together.
What are the Causes of Depression in the Elderly?
- Death of a long-term partner
- The loss of friends, siblings, and others who are the same age
- Physical impairments that lead to decreased mobility
- Illnesses such as cancer, diabetes, or other chronic health concerns
- Financial instability
- Social isolation
- Uncertainty about the future
- Certain medications
- Genetic history of depression
So, what can adult children do to help an elderly parent with depression? Most importantly, you must recognize the symptoms of depression and understand the reasons why the symptoms are occurring.
The National Institute on Aging lists the following symptoms commonly associated with depression in the elderly.
- Persistent sadness
- Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, or guilt
- Irritability or restlessness
- Loss of interest in pleasurable activities
- Fatigue or decreased energy
- Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
- Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
- Eating more or less than usual and weight fluctuation
- Thoughts of death or suicide
Download Our Guide To Coping With Grief and Loss
If you notice any of the symptoms of depression occurring in your elderly parent, you should seek help immediately. The first step is to encourage your parent to seek medical advice and offer to go with them to the appointment.
Once a medical diagnosis has been determined try to help your parent follow the recommended treatment plan. The plan may include medication and some suggestions for behavior modification to help with the symptoms.
Physical activity is a great way to maintain good health and to help with the symptoms of depression. Encourage your parent to join a senior exercise or yoga class. Offer to go for walks together whenever possible. Getting out of the house and into nature can be a great mood booster.
Encourage your parent to reach out to old friends or to join a senior group at the local senior center. Socialization is not only therapeutic, but it can also increase self-esteem and overall well-being.
Your intervention and participation in the treatment for your elderly parent’s depression could be the difference between life and death. If symptoms of depression persist, make sure your parent is getting the help and support they need to find their way back to a vibrant and happy life.
Depression in the elderly can be treated successfully in most cases. A combination of professional advice, medication, behavioral changes, a healthy and balanced diet, and the love of supportive family and friends are keys to happiness for you and your parent in their golden years of life.