Seniors are at risk for depression and are sometimes underserved by the mental health or medical profession. According to research, elders have a high rate of suicide in this country, so it’s important that everyone know the signs and how to help.
Part of the problem is many older people don’t like to ask for help, don’t recognize they have a problem, or they don’t want to burden their family members. And some of them see depression as a weakness and are embarrassed by it.
First of all, family members and trusted friends need to know the signs:
- Have they stopped eating for more than a few days?
- Have they lost interest in activities that used to give them joy?
- Do they want to sleep all the time?
- Have they been aggravated and irritable?
These are possible signs of depression, but could also be symptoms of other medical problems.
Here are some tips for helping seniors with depression:
- Talk to them about how they are feeling – don’t just offer a shoulder for them to lean on but also talk to them about solutions. For example, if they are depressed about not being able to drive anymore, discuss getting a taxi or car service to assist them. This way they still have some independence and they don’t feel like they are burdening family members all the time.
- Don’t force them to use the word depressed – some seniors don’t like that word and refuse to use it, so don’t make them say it. Just listen to them and try to identify what is different or has changed in their lives.
- Depression is an illness – don’t make them feel guilty about being depressed or that they are burdening you or other family members. Don’t say things like “you need to get out more” or “pull yourself up by your bootstraps”. Those types of statements can actually make them feel worse.
- Don’t be a control freak – don’t try to take over their life and run things for them. That will actually make the problem worse. You want to encourage them to remain as independent as possible for as long as possible. Offer positive solutions, a gentle hand, or a shoulder to lean on but don’t try to take over.
- Participate in their care – attend doctor appointments with them, help them choose activities to do, and visit them often. But again, don’t take over and force things on them. Ask your senior loved one to give their doctors permission to speak with you. Consult with their physicians to make them aware of the situation so you all can work together to resolve the issue.
It’s important that you know the signs and symptoms and you are available to help your elder loved one without making the problem worse. Remember to always be kind, loving, and respectful. Also, don’t overreact or panic…stay calm and don’t lose your cool with them. And if you can’t find a solution, please consult a professional for help. Talk with their doctors and help your senior find the care they need.
If you need more advice or would like to visit one of our assisted living cottages, please contact us today.