Tag Archives: elderly 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.

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.