Depression in Seniors: How to Help a Senior Loved One Who’s Struggling with Depression

Nov 5, 2016 | 2016 Articles, Mental Health

by Patricia Sarmiento

Millions of Americans of all ages struggle to live with depression every day. But unfortunately, depression suffered by the elderly is often overlooked as a common side-effect of growing old.

While experiencing personal loss and decline in health can increase the likelihood of depression, it doesn’t have to be this way for your loved one. Plenty of elderly people continue to lead wholesome and happy lives, and with a bit of extra care, you can help your loved one do the same.

old man

Image from Pixabay: wemer22brigitte

Give Them Your Attention

Encourage your loved one to talk about how he feels, and be a good listener once he’s opened up. Let go of any judgmental or unhelpful thoughts you may have, and listen with an open heart, making sure he knows you’ll support him every step of the way.

Be on the lookout for signs of depression like fatigue, irritability, or feelings of guilt. Catch these symptoms early, so you can seek professional help for your loved one as soon as possible.

Make Sure They’re Getting Plenty of Rest

Often, seniors have trouble sleeping, and this can be especially true if they’re struggling with depression. Talk to your loved one about their sleep habits. Are they sleeping a lot during the day but unable to sleep at night? Are they experiencing pain or discomfort that prevents them from getting proper rest? Once you know more about their sleep habits, you can help them find a solution. For example, maybe they’re eating or drinking something before bed that is keeping them awake. If so, you might be able to suggest another option. Beverages such as chamomile tea and warm milk are great healthy sleep aids.

Give Them Space

Being there for your loved one is important, but it’s also important to know when to take a step back. Don’t force her to seek professional help if she hasn’t warmed up to the idea yet. It may take time for your loved one to figure out whether or not she wants extra support.

Letting your loved one do things on her own sometimes will keep her from feeling like a burden on you. If she can still drive a car, grocery shop on her own, and go to the doctor alone, then let her accomplish these tasks by herself and only step in when you need to.

Choose Your Words Carefully

Avoid negative terms like “depression,” “struggle,” or “get help.” Using more thoughtful words to express your concerns can make your loved one more comfortable when talking about this sensitive problem.

Encourage Hobbies

Getting your loved one up and moving can help improve her mood. If she’s not engaging her mind and body regularly in something she enjoys, she might suffer the effects of having a sedentary lifestyle.

Spend time with your loved one doing the activities she likes to do. Encourage her to work on her hobbies so she’ll have goals and achievements to look forward to in the near future.

Make it easier for her to get exercise by offering to go with her, or helping her furnish her own personal home gym. For example, you might walk with her around your neighborhood, or go to a Zumba class together. Swimming is also a great activity for seniors, especially those who are cancer survivors, or who have illnesses such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, or arthritis; swimming is low impact, soothing, great for the heart, and helps boost mood and self-esteem.

Seek the Right Kind of Help

Is it possible that your loved one’s medication is causing his depression? Has he recently suffered a great loss? Sometimes depression has no discernible cause, but often there are triggers that put your loved one at greater risk for depression.

Knowing the cause of your loved one’s depression can help you decide what type of specialized assistance you should look for. And if your loved one refuses to seek professional help, remember to practice patience with him or her. Continuing to offer your unwavering support will help them feel comfortable enough to seek professional help on their own terms.

Check out KRL’s Mental Health section for more mental health related articles.

Patricia Sarmiento channels her love of fitness and wellness into blogging about health and health-related topics.


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