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.

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