Sadness is a normal emotion, and everyone has felt it. But when it dominates all other feelings, when it increases in intensity and lasts longer than a few weeks, a person might be suffering from depression. Depression in seniors is not uncommon, though it's important to note that it is not necessarily a normal part of aging. In fact, studies have shown that in general, seniors tend to be more satisfied with life as compared to their younger counterparts. Still, when seniors become depressed, it can compound what may already be a challenging set of circumstances. The good news is, there are many ways to treat depression, and some involve simple lifestyle changes.
What Is Depression?
Depression is a serious mood disorder that affects the way a person feels, acts, and thinks. If someone has suffered from depression as a young person, chances are they will also be affected by it as a senior. Depression can range from mild to severe and last from a few days to years. Some depressive episodes last only a few weeks but interfere completely with a person’s ability to handle daily tasks; others can last years but not impede a loved one’s competency at managing everyday life. Depression can have its root cause in genetics, can be related to a separate illness, like heart disease or multiple sclerosis, or be the result of substance abuse or prescription medications. Depending on what kind and how severe the depression is, treatment will vary.
How to Help a Senior with Depression
Seniors are at risk of isolation and feelings of loneliness, which can exacerbate depression if they are already living with it. The good news is, if you’re wondering how to help a senior with depression, the condition is highly treatable and can be relieved by talk therapy with a licensed professional and/or prescription antidepressants. Even better, there are some very simple lifestyle changes that, when made, can alleviate or get rid of depression altogether. These include:
- Getting plenty of moderate exercise: Walking with your senior or encouraging them to join an age-appropriate exercise group is always a good idea. Regular movement is a great mood enhancer, and beyond that, it builds muscle that can keep your senior strong and safe from slips or falls.
- Eating foods that fight depression: More and more studies show a link between diet and depression. Encourage your senior to eat foods, including fish, nuts, and leafy green vegetables, that may help with their mood. If your loved one is unable to cook, do it for them or hire someone who can prepare healthy meals.
- Staying connected: Humans need regular interaction with others. It keeps us healthy and happy. Make time for your senior loved one. Take them to family gatherings or bring the family to them. Don’t leave them alone for long stretches, and if you’re not able to spend time with them regularly, schedule weekly visits from a home healthcare worker who can keep them engaged and feeling useful.
Seeking Outside Help
If your family member’s depression does not respond to simple lifestyle changes, it may be time to seek outside help. The professional advisors at Senior Care Authority can help you identify resources and come up with a plan to put your senior back on track toward good mental health. It's important to remember that there is no shame in depression, and your loved one need not go through it alone. You aren't alone, either — we are here to help!
To find out more about depression in seniors and how they can be helped, get in touch with Senior Care Authority today.