When you have an elderly loved one coping with depression, knowing how to help can be difficult. Thanks to a complex mix of factors, older people are at an increased risk of depression, and seniors whose family members understand how to adequately address the problem will fare better than their unsupported counterparts. Because of this, it’s essential for the family members of seniors to understand the risk factors, signs, and treatment options of senior depression. Read on to learn more.
What is Senior Depression?Depression is a condition that causes an individual to feel sad, hopeless, and lethargic. While it affects people of all ages, classes, and genetic backgrounds, it is especially rampant in seniors. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 7 million American seniors (Aged 65 or older) suffer from depressive symptoms each year. These numbers are startling, and it’s clear that senior depression is a real issue facing our older population today.
What Causes Senior Depression?Depression is a complex disease, and various factors cause it. While it’s impossible to trace any case of depression back to a single causative issue, professionals believe that the following things all influence the presence of depression in seniors:
- Genetics: There is some evidence to suggest that depression is genetic, and the elderly are more likely to suffer from depression if someone in their family has suffered from it in the past.
- Stress or loss: Seniors who have recently lost a spouse or are experiencing stress because of a move (to an assisted living facility, for example) or a new life event (a newly diagnosed illness) are at increased risk for depression.
- Shifting brain chemistry: Brain chemistry is a major factor in senior depression. When certain chemicals are imbalanced in the brain, depression occurs, and since seniors’ brains change markedly as they age, they’re at increased risk for chemical imbalances and depressive symptoms.
What are the Signs of Senior Depression?Senior depression manifests in many ways. Some of the most common are as follows:
- The senior may feel sad, hopeless, or empty
- The senior may experience severe mood swings, and become angry, hysterical, or inconsolable for seemingly no reason
- The senior may be unable to find enjoyment in pastimes he or she used to love
- The senior may be unable to concentrate on things like work, friendships, and responsibilities
- The senior may experience difficult with healthy sleep patterns, either sleeping barely enough or sleeping so much that their daily patterns and responsibilities are disrupted
- The senior’s eating habits may change, and they may begin to eat more than usual, or stop eating altogether
- Some seniors who are experiencing senior depression will have suicidal thoughts, and may attempt suicide in extreme cases
- Physical symptoms are common with senior depression, and affected individuals may experience headaches, vomiting, digestive upset, and pain
Helping Seniors Cope with Depression: 5 TipsIf your family member has been diagnosed with senior depression, it’s natural to feel helpless. You want to provide support, but you’re not sure where to start. You’re not alone in feeling this way – most people who have a family member diagnosed with senior depression experience the same emotions. Luckily, there are things you can do to help. Here are five tips to get you started:
Be available for your loved one
Accompany your loved one to therapy
Handle household tasks
Laugh (when appropriate)