Category Archives: depression

Talking To Your Aging Loved One About Depression

When the tables are turned from your Mom and Dad parenting you to the time when you are becoming more responsible for their care, you need to be aware of the sometimes subtle changes in their moods or health.  

Some signs such as forgetfulness, not eating, not leaving the house or letting personal hygiene slide may be readily visible. Signs of depression, though, which could be brought about by several factors may not be so easily recognizable. If you are a caregiver that has almost daily contact with aging relatives you will likely notice changes in behavior. If you don’t live close by and have to rely on telephone calls, webcam chats or occasional visits you may miss the signs. Consider if you’ve been calling Mom or Dad and inviting them over or offering to visit and they put you off or make excuses to avoid you, it could be a signal of a deeper issue. If your parents are making excuses to not see the grandchildren or participate in other family activities and if they mention they’re not sleeping well it mean they’re clinically depressed.  

Depression is more than a bout of “feeling sad” and studies have shown that close to 20% of the population aged 65 and older may suffer from depression. In seniors that are housebound or who live alone those figures soar to close to 50%. Another statistic that is startling is that while the elderly may be 13% of the population in the United States, they account for close to 20% of the nation’s suicide rate: the highest rates are in men that are 80-years-old or older. 

In spite of these statistics, depression is one of those conditions that is not readily picked up on and in many cases the symptoms are attributed to other health issues entirely. Even seniors ignore their feelings and may think they’re feeling sad because they’re aging, are alone or simply do not feel well. Depression, doctors explain, is not a typical symptom of aging.

If you’re a caregiver or spouse what are the signs you should be looking for in your loved one? Here are a few symptoms that could signal depression:

  • Feelings of anxiety that don’t abate
  • Feeling sad for no specific reason
  • Sleeping too much
  • Sleeping too little or waking up frequently during the night
  • Losing interest in activities you’d once enjoyed – cooking, walking, playing cards with friends, spending time with grandchildren, etc.
  • Loss of energy
  • Weight gain or weight loss
  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating, making decisions or recalling life events.
  • Feeling you’re a burden to your family
  • Feelings of hopelessness or guilt

If you feel any of these feelings, talk with your family or your physician and ask for help.

If you’re a caregiver and you notice any of these signs, talk with your Mom or Dad and ask if there is anything bothering them or if there’s anything they’d like to talk about. Asking, “are you depressed” will not open the door to conversation. If your loved one talks about “not feeling hungry” or “I can’t sleep” or “I don’t feel like going out any more” or “I’m just not feeling well” these could be symptoms of depression. Reassure him or her that what they’re feeling may warrant a trip to the doctor. Let him know (even if they don’t say anything) that you do not find caring for him a burden and in fact you enjoy the time you have together. Offer to go to the doctor’s with her and ask the doctor for a medical assessment to rule out any other physical cause.

Treatments for depression vary from medications to behavioral therapies. It is a problem to be taken seriously and addressed in a calm, loving manner.

Combat Loneliness in Seniors

Solitude can be a welcomed thing but when it goes on too long loneliness sets in and that can eventually lead to depression.

Studies have shown that when isolated, individuals typically experience more health problems than those who have strong family ties or outside interests.

Here are a few ways to help the loved one in your life combat loneliness:

  1. It is important to realize first and foremost that you cannot take on the full responsibility for your loved one’s state of mind. Do what you can, but don’t absorb so much responsibility and guilt that your own health and wellbeing is affected.
  2. Look for opportunities for your loved one to be involved. If your loved one is involved in church, there can be many activities and opportunities to engage with others. Also consider senior centers who may have group trips, luncheons and other activities that will help to increase activity.
  3. Help your loved one learn to use Skype as a way to keep in touch with family members who don’t live near. The ability to see
    Image representing Skype as depicted in CrunchBase

    Skype is a great way for the elderly to keep in touch with family members who live far away.

    their great-grandchildren playing or chat with family members provides a boost! You may also consider creating a Facebook page so family who live far away can share pictures and stories.

  4. Involve the whole family and their lifelong friends. Ask others to help out with household chores or shopping trips. See if a family member who lives closer might be willing to pitch in and help out with driving your relatives to the doctor’s or to volunteer activities. It’s good for people who feel isolated to see a variety of people, not just one person day in and day out.
  5. If your loved one is in poor health or has health problems that cause concern, consider equipping the home with a medical alert system. For those days when you can’t be there, the medical alert pendant provides peace of mind in case there is a medical emergency. While this doesn’t reduce the feeling of loneliness, it can provide comfort and alleviate some depression surrounding his or her condition.

Keeping in touch with your relatives is a great way to keep isolation at bay and help keep them healthier and able to age in place longer.  Frequent visits, walks and short shopping trips help alleviate that housebound feeling as well. Ultimately, if depression seems to be worsening, it’s important to see a physician to diagnose and treat the problem.

How to Care for a Loved One with Depression

As we get older, many of us lose sight of the importance of mental health and maintaining a positive attitude on a day-to-day basis. As a result, the number of elderly individuals dealing with depression often increases.  It is very important that these individuals have a support system in place to help them to deal with their depression and also ensure that they are able to take the proper steps to improve the environment around them. Often, exercise, time with friends and family and a good healthy diet can help reduce some of the depression related feelings.

Although depression is common in elderly individuals, they may be unable to recognize the signs or may be unwilling to admit that they are suffering from depression. There are many issues that could cause an individual to become depressed in their elderly years, but it is important to take note of the differences between having a down day, and going through ongoing depression, which could be a sign of other issues.

One of the more common reasons why elderly individuals experience depression can stem from loneliness. For individuals that become lonely, it is even more important for family members to stay in constant contact with them, not only to check on their well-being but to help to ease the feelings of loneliness.  One way caregivers and family members can help is to make plans with individuals that are suffering from depression, helping to give them something to look forward to throughout the week.

In elderly individuals, depression can also stem from a loss of independence. Injuries, medical concerns, and a loss of strength can make it more difficult for them to continue to do the same tasks that they have done throughout their entire lives.  It’s easy to see how these factors can lead to a sense of despair and frustration. Consulting a doctor is important to determine whether medication is needed or needs to be changed, and simply to ensure your loved one is in the best possible physical and emotional state.

Providing a support system to provide peace of mind and add a measure of safety can also alleviate some of the worries that lead to depression.  One option to consider is a medical alert system.  The person using the system wears a bracelet or pendant that includes an emergency help button. In the event of a fall or health issue, pushing the button will alert the emergency care center providing access to medical personnel or a call to a neighbor.  This ensures that your loved one gets the help that they need, as quickly as possible. Not only does this serve as a huge benefit to them, but it also allows family members to have peace of mind, knowing that their loved ones will always be able to get to the phone and call for help during emergencies. Elderly individuals with depression are much more likely to suffer a fall, and the medical alert button is the perfect tool to help provide a safe environment.

Signs Your Loved One is Withdrawing from Life

Aging has a tendency to push the ones we love into smaller and smaller circles, withdrawing from wider-reaching social groups and activities. Removing oneself from certain facets of the outside world is commonplace for senior citizens, as they downsize their home, move into retirement communities, and forgo activities their bodies can no longer physically handle.

While downsizing and withdrawing may have a negative connotation, restructuring one’s life due to age can bring about many positive changes. Moving into a smaller home can alleviate the need for yard work or household tasks that are no longer manageable for them such as cleaning gutters, mowing the lawn or pulling weeds. Downsizing can also reduce bills and can free up more time for your loved one to engage in other activities they’re interested in but sometimes this can create new problems!

As your loved one begins to adapt to their new lifestyle, one of the most important things they can do to maintain their happiness is nurture their social connections. Most elderly individuals see retirement as a period in their life in which they want to spend more time with their families. However, the elderly often feel isolated as family and friends move away or pass on. Losing one’s loved ones or feeling disconnected can facilitate a downward spiral or lead to depression. Therefore, the most important indicator of happiness as people age depends on their ability to adapt to change. Going into isolation is a choice elderly individuals make, which often results in the following behaviors:

  1. Driving less or eliminating vehicles: Elderly individuals often begin to limit their amount of driving and downsize from two cars to one.
  2. Reduce their amount of travel and entertainment: Your loved ones may begin to cut down on the number of vacations they take each year, reduce the amount of time they spend on vacation, or stop going on vacations altogether. In addition to limiting trips, your loved one may also limit the amount of restaurants and or other activities they go to.
  3. Cut out or reduce hobbies: You may also notice that your loved one has quit attending regular activities with friends like playing golf or cards or even doing solo activities like knitting or gardening.
  4. Reducing the size of their closet or getting rid of belongings: The elderly tend to get rid of some of the clothing they think they no longer have use for.
  5. Moving closer to their children: This act often results in a greater reliance of their children for errands and activities.
  6. Eating habits: Your loved one may begin to limit what they eat, eating the same meals every day and foregoing new foods or recipes.
  7. Reduce the amount of time spent with friends and social groups: Lunch dates and social gatherings with friends may be reduced or eliminated altogether.

While some aspects of withdrawing and downsizing are normal when it comes to aging, completely cutting oneself off from the outside world and resorting to isolation is not. Make sure your loved is adapting well to change or consult with their doctor if you believe their behavior has become a cause for concern!

Understanding And Dealing With Depression In The Aging

Depression and anxiety can take its toll on the elderly; it’s been medically proven that individuals with healthy emotional states are better able to fight off illness. Being emotionally healthy lends itself to better sleep and an improved appetite leading toward a longer, more satisfying life for the elderly.

Even if the elderly in your life are dealing with medical issues and a declining ability to care for themselves, having a good attitude can help them get through the day. If your aging loved ones have a healthy family support system they are better able to enjoy their lives despite the rigors of growing old.

If you notice changes in their mood or behavior, check to see if they’re neglecting personal hygiene, not eating or if they’re taking a less active interest in life. These may be signs of depression and that you need to contact their doctor for assistance. Depression can be pervasive and sneak up on people and it’s not always easy to recognize. Individuals diagnosed with depression feel an overall lack of interest in items and activities they used to enjoy, but don’t generally realize the toll it can take on their health. While grieving and occasional bouts of sadness are to be expected, prolonged bouts need to be addressed.

Caregivers can help their aging relatives avoid depression by encouraging and helping to keep loved ones involved and active. Loss of mobility, independence, loneliness and waning health can lead to depression. If you, your siblings or other family members live nearby it should become a routine to stop by and visit, pick them up and bring them to your home for a visit or to a restaurant. Getting out of the house, whether it’s for a family event or even a trip to the grocery store, are welcome respites from staying in the house all day.

Be aware too that certain medications can enhance the possibility of depression. Regardless of why depression strikes, it needs to be addressed. If left untreated depression can lead to more serious health consequences; treatment and a healthy family support system will help your relatives get through depression.

Living alone can be stressful for the elderly but combined with depression, it can be worrisome for loved ones, especially those who can’t be there every day.  To relieve this anxiety consider a home medical alert system. This system, with its medical alert pendant can provide peace of mind knowing that your loved one has immediate access to medical personnel and family members should they need assistance.

5 Tips To Help The Elderly Enjoy The Holidays

Holidays are a wonderful time for most of us; we get together with family and friends – some of whom we haven’t seen since the previous year. For the elderly in your family though, the holidays can be stressful, depressing or even confusing, especially if their emotional and physical needs are not taken into account.

 Having older relatives means you need to take their health concerns into account, especially if they are traveling to a family member’s house with you. Here are some tips from the home medical alert system providers at LifeFone to help make your holidays merry and safe:

  1. Prior planning is crucial to a successful holiday visit. If your elderly family members are in an environment that takes them out of their element, you need to plan for downtime where they can slip away from the hustle and bustle of the day and simply relax. Noise and confusion that comes with a large gathering can lead to exhaustion or even irritability in your older relative.
  2. Take time to reminisce. For many holidays are a time of good cheer and looking forward to the new year. When it comes to elderly relatives though, it could be a time of year that causes them to miss their spouses or other relatives who are no longer with you. Spend some time strolling down memory lane with your elderly relative; engage him in conversation about what it was like when they celebrated holidays, etc. Include them in the conversation and even pull out old photo albums to enhance the memories.
  3. Build new memories with your relative. Include them in the festivities if possible – let them help with the cooking or decorating or gift wrapping. If you live in an area that offers holiday activities, pack the family up, grab a camera and make new memories to fill an album.
  4. Rearrange the furniture for ease of movement of your elderly relatives. Just as you’d child proof your home for toddlers, you will want to make your home easy to navigate for your aging relatives. Arrange the furniture in a way that will accommodate walkers or individuals who use a cane. Keep electrical cords out of the way, remove or secure throw rugs, eliminate items that could trip up a relative with balance problems. In the event of an extended out of town visit, make certain you’ve contacted your home medical alert system and make certain your relative is still wearing his or her medical alert pendant in the event of a fall.
  5. Be purposeful in reaching out to your elderly family members. If they are unable or unwilling to travel to meet with the family for a celebration, take some time to have a mini-celebration to their house. Offer to set up a small tree or hang other decorations. Either deliver or cook a small meal at their house. Do what you can to alleviate their loneliness as the holidays are associated with increased depression in individuals of all ages.

 Taking time to include your elderly relatives through the holidays is a great way to help everyone in the family build memories that will last a lifetime and with a bit of prior planning, no one will get lost in the hustle and bustle of the season.

How To Tell If Your Care Recipient is Depressed – And What to Do

Living with depression is lonely, alienating and frustrating, and providing care to an elderly parent with depression often leads to feelings of depression within the caregiver. Depression rates among the elderly are high – 15 percent of Americans over the age of 65 are affected. Being able to identify depression within an elderly parent is imperative to caregiving. Learn how to lessen the effects of depression and attain information about available support.

Depression within the elderly is highly treatable but often it is not identified because it is overshadowed by other medical conditions, physical ailments or dismissed as senility.  Depression can lead to dysfunction in every aspect of life. Almost 2/3 of people with depression do not receive the necessary treatment because they are unaware of the symptoms or fear the stigma of depression.

  • Identifying Depression: Elderly people often don’t identify sadness, irritability or anxiety. Instead they complain about physical symptoms like fatigue or pain. If an elderly adult is experiencing the following symptoms for a period of two weeks or longer, they may be suffering from depression: lost interest in activities they used to enjoy, fatigue, dramatic change in appetite, dramatic change in sleeping patterns, feelings of worthlessness, having unexplained aches or pains, or contemplating death or suicide.

◦     Depression is the leading cause of suicide. Men over the age of 80 are at the highest risk of suicide, if an elderly individual has become obsessed with death or suicide, call his or her doctor immediately.

  • Getting help for an Adult with Depression: If you suspect your care receiver is experiencing depression the first step is to get them a thorough medical evaluation. Since you are around your care receiver often, you are able to identify changes in their behavior and will be a great asset to their medical professional. Go with them to their appointment to express your concerns and call ahead to explain the situation. In order to receive coverage it is recommended the elderly individual see their primary care physician first who may then refer them to a specialist.
  • Dealing With Depression: Show your loved one how much you care for them. Depression makes individuals feel isolated and hopeless. Listen and sympathize. Read as much material on depression as you can, stress that depression is treatable and is not a sign of weakness – let them know they can get through this. It will also help to enlist the help of others who can reaffirm your statements like medical professionals, family members or friends. Knowing more about depression will help you cope as a caregiver and keep your expectations reasonable.
  • Manage Their Treatment: Make sure to report changes in behavior of the depressed individual to their medical professional. Medications typically take a month to a month and a half to produce the desired effects. Track the medications your loved one is taking, make appointments and report changes. Above all it is important to be understanding. People with depression need to be surrounded by love and reminded they are cared for. It is also important for you to create a support group for yourself so you are not tasked with the difficulty of caring for a depressed individual all alone. Taking on the care of a depressed elderly care recipient by yourself is a difficult task that may lead to your own depression, so don’t be bashful in insisting on help.
  • What Not To Do When Dealing With Depression: Depression is a medical condition, it is not symptomatic of weak character. Do not dismiss your loved one’s feelings or force them into socializing as this can increase their feelings of worthlessness. Do not play into their negative views or agree with them, reiterate depression can be treated. Caregivers need to express hope about the situation improving.

Depression in the Elderly

How To Tell If Your Care Recipient is Depressed – And What to Do

Living with depression is lonely, alienating and frustrating, and providing care to an elderly parent with depression often leads to feelings of depression within the caregiver. Depression rates among the elderly are high – 15 percent of Americans over the age of 65 are affected. Being able to identify depression within an elderly parent is imperative to caregiving. Learn how to lessen the effects of depression and obtain information about available support.

Depression within the elderly is highly treatable but often it is not identified because it is overshadowed by other medical conditions, physical ailments or dismissed as senility.  Depression can lead to dysfunction in every aspect of life. Almost 2/3 of people with depression do not receive the necessary treatment because they are unaware of the symptoms or fear the stigma of depression.

  • Identifying Depression: Elderly people often don’t identify sadness, irritability or anxiety. Instead they complain about physical symptoms like fatigue or pain. If an elderly adult is experiencing the following symptoms for a period of two weeks or longer, they may be suffering from depression: lost interest in activities they used to enjoy, fatigue, dramatic change in appetite, dramatic change in sleeping patterns, feelings of worthlessness, having unexplained aches or pains, or contemplating death or suicide.

◦     Depression is the leading cause of suicide. Men over the age of 80 are at the highest risk of suicide, if an elderly individual has become obsessed with death or suicide, call his or her doctor immediately.

  • Getting help for an Adult with Depression: If you suspect your care receiver is experiencing depression the first step is to get them a thorough medical evaluation. Since you are around your care receiver often, you are able to identify changes in their behavior and will be a great asset to their medical professional. Go with them to their appointment to express your concerns and call ahead to explain the situation. In order to receive coverage it is recommended the elderly individual see their primary care physician first who may then refer them to a specialist.
  • Dealing With Depression: Show your loved one how much you care for them. Depression makes individuals feel isolated and hopeless. Listen and sympathize. Read as much material on depression as you can, stress that depression is treatable and is not a sign of weakness – let them know they can get through this. It will also help to enlist the help of others who can reaffirm your statements like medical professionals, family members or friends. Knowing more about depression will help you cope as a caregiver and keep your expectations reasonable.
  • Manage Their Treatment: Make sure to report changes in behavior of the depressed individual to their medical professional. Medications typically take a month to a month and a half to produce the desired effects. Track the medications your loved one is taking, make appointments and report changes. Above all it is important to be understanding. People with depression need to be surrounded by love and reminded they are cared for. It is also important for you to create a support group for yourself so you are not tasked with the difficulty of caring for a depressed individual all alone. Taking on the care of a depressed elderly care recipient by yourself is a difficult task that may lead to your own depression, so don’t be bashful in insisting on help.
  • What Not To Do When Dealing With Depression: Depression is a medical condition, it is not symptomatic of weak character. Do not dismiss your loved one’s feelings or force them into socializing as this can increase their feelings of worthlessness. Do not play into their negative views or agree with them, reiterate depression can be treated. Caregivers need to express hope about the situation improving.