Mental health and our elderly family members
Have you noticed a parent, relative or an elderly friend struggling to accept their current stage of life? My own mother has been struggling for the last few years as she required knee replacement surgery as well as developing a heart condition. Every day living became more difficult as the weeks passed. Finally, she agreed to have her first knee done.
She was able to manage her medication but she began to stop cooking for herself which led to other health issues. My father had passed away two years prior and all she could see was a future of loneliness and difficulty. It was heartbreaking to watch and it was clear to me that she was showing signs of depression.
Open up about stresses being experienced
Over the last few years, some of our clients have opened up about the stress they are experiencing about their elderly parents. The worry for their health and welfare, as well as their potential loneliness can weigh heavily on us as their children. It can add another level of anxiety to our own struggles, as our concern grows for their situation during these later years of life.
As we age, life brings with it a myriad of experiences, from cherished memories to significant life changes. However, for some elderly individuals, the golden years may be clouded by the presence of depression. Depression in the elderly is a serious yet often overlooked issue that can have profound effects on both physical and mental well-being.
In this article, we will explore the unique challenges faced by seniors dealing with depression and offer insights into providing meaningful support.
- Recognising the signs
Depression in the elderly can manifest differently than in younger individuals, making it essential to be vigilant about recognising the signs. Common symptoms may include persistent sadness, social withdrawal, changes in sleep patterns, appetite loss, and a lack of interest in previously enjoyed activities. Since these signs can overlap with other age-related conditions, it’s crucial to seek professional advice for an accurate diagnosis.
- Addressing the stigma
Unfortunately, there is a prevailing stigma surrounding mental health in many societies, and the elderly may feel hesitant to discuss their feelings openly. It’s important to create a safe and judgment-free space where seniors feel comfortable expressing their emotions. Encourage open conversations about mental health, emphasising that seeking help is a sign of strength rather than weakness.
- Understanding the triggers
Depression in the elderly can be triggered by a variety of factors, including chronic health conditions, loss of loved ones, social isolation, or financial stress. By understanding these potential triggers, caregivers and family members can offer targeted support. Regular communication and observation can help identify the root causes and tailor interventions accordingly.
- Fostering social connections
Social isolation is a common risk factor for depression in seniors. Try to encourage regular social interactions by organising family gatherings, investigating community events that may interest them, or senior center activities. Simple gestures, such as phone calls, visits, or engaging in shared hobbies, can significantly contribute to an elderly person’s mental well-being.
- Incorporating physical activity
Physical activity has been shown to have positive effects on mental health, and this holds true for the elderly. Encourage light exercises or activities suitable for their mobility level, such as walking, gardening, or chair exercises. Regular movement not only promotes physical health but also stimulates the release of endorphins, which can elevate mood.
- Seeking professional help
If depression symptoms persist, it’s crucial to seek professional help. Mental health professionals experienced in working with the elderly can offer tailored interventions, including therapy and medication when appropriate. Collaborate with healthcare providers to develop a comprehensive care plan that addresses both physical and mental health concerns.
Depression in the elderly is a complex issue that requires understanding, compassion, and proactive support. By recognising the signs, addressing stigma, understanding triggers, fostering social connections, incorporating physical activity, and seeking professional help when needed, we can contribute to a better quality of life for our senior loved ones. Together, let’s work towards creating an environment where the mental health of the elderly is prioritised and where they can age with dignity, purpose, and emotional well-being.