As the holiday season approaches, most people are focused on the hustle and bustle of shopping, decorating, and family gatherings. It’s easy to forget that between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, levels of stress and depression increase for many Americans, including seniors.
According to the National Institute on Aging, risk factors for depression among elders include social isolation and loneliness, stress (including caregiver stress), genes, medical conditions including a history of stroke and cancer, lack of exercise or physical activity, and sleep disruptions.
As we age, isolation is increasingly a factor for depression. That has only heightened during the pandemic when it has been particularly important that older adults and their caregivers maintain social distance and other health protocols to ensure their safety.
Do you know what signs to look for if you are concerned your aging loved one may suffer from depression?
Symptoms can differ from those common in younger adults. That may explain why less than 40% of seniors with mental health disorders get treatment, according to the National Coalition on Mental Health and Aging.
Depression is also common among people suffering from dementia. Symptoms of the two conditions can overlap, making it hard to identify if someone is suffering from both.
Symptoms of Depression
- Lack of interest in activities and hobbies that were once enjoyed
- Irritability and restlessness
- Lack of energy
- Difficulty concentrating or making everyday decisions
- Changes in appetite
- Persistent sad or numb feelings
- Moving or talking more slowly than usual
- Substance abuse
- Thoughts of self-harm or suicide
You may be surprised to find out that older adults have a much higher rate of suicide than the general population. If you or someone you care about is thinking about self-harm, call the toll-free, 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK.
If someone you care for shows several of the signs on the list above, talk to their health care provider. While you can help a family member or friend suffering from depression, it is a medical condition that requires treatment from a doctor. The good news is that treatment for depression has been shown to be very effective in older adults.
Steps You Can Take
There are also steps you can take to help prevent your loved one from becoming depressed. Help them eat a balanced diet and stay physically active. Encourage them to participate in hobbies or activities they enjoy. Touch base with them regularly.
You can enlist an Angel Companions’ caregiver’s help as well. Our staff is specifically trained to engage seniors in stimulating conversation and help them remain connected with the outside world. As your eyes and ears when you’re not available, a professional caregiver can make note of any mental changes so you can contact doctors and mental health professionals. Our non-medical companion caregivers can also monitor your loved one’s taking of prescription medications, which helps prevent substance abuse.
If you suspect medications, drugs, or alcohol are being used improperly, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Helpline at 800-662-HELP.
You can also find resources for the mental health of aging adults through the National Institute on Aging’s Depression and Older Adults resources.
Professional Caregiver Support
Angel Companions caregivers not only support aging loved ones in the home with personal care, they also provide human connection and mobility in the greater community. Contact us to find out how we can create a flexible care plan to meet your elder’s specific emotional, physical, and social needs.