Depression is an incredibly difficult subject to broach with a loved one – especially if the person involved is unwilling to talk about it. Thankfully, there has never been a better time for the recognition and support of those living with depression.
While younger generations are being encouraged to speak about their mental health problems, older generations can still be more likely to belittle their problems or don’t want to acknowledge that there even is a problem. If you suspect that your elderly loved one is suffering in silence, you shouldn’t feel powerless because you really can help.
At Better Healthcare, our team of nurses and carers work with elderly people who are living with depression on an everyday basis. Hence, we’ve put together this guide to help you understand your loved one’s mental health, identify if they are living with depression, and to offer tips that can help you to brighten their mood.
Defining and identifying depression
When we talk about depression, it’s important to set it apart from sadness. When something unwelcome, bad or traumatic happens – such as the loss of a job, personal failure or the loss of a loved one – it’s completely natural for someone to feel sad. However, when that sadness lingers for a long time and affects the way that a person lives their life on a daily basis – such as how they act, what they do, how they feel and the way they think – then this could indicate depression.
For older people, depression could be recognised as a loss of energy and/or interest in hobbies, unexplained aches and pains, memory problems, being irritable, not caring about their hygiene, not eating and shying away from socialising with others or even setting foot outside.
It can be easy to assume that depression goes hand-in-hand with ageing – but this isn’t necessarily true. In fact, it can be the circumstances surrounding ageing – rather than a medical reason – that can bring about depression.
Here are some of the factors that can trigger depression:
- Loss of a loved one
- Living alone
- Monetary issues
- Social isolation
- No support network
- Fear of death
- Family or previous history of depression
- Medical conditions
Understanding why depression happens
While there may be a number of reasons behind why your loved one is suffering from depression, it’s important to examine some of these reasons in a bit more depth.
As aforementioned, grief can be an extremely powerful response to losing an important figure in our lives. For older people, that loss can be further compounded by thoughts on their own mortality and the world that they once knew changing around them. However, grief can still allow for good days and moments – such as being able to laugh at a joke or visit friends. Depression, however, rarely allows these things to happen.
Seasonal depression can also affect the elderly, just as it does with anyone, but this can be compounded by holiday periods reminding them of their memories and life. As elderly people are at risk of being socially isolated, this can lead them to think back to their so-called ‘glory days’. While remembering good times doesn’t need to be a bad thing, it can make a socially isolated person’s current day life look poor in comparison – leading to depression.
Lastly, it’s worth noting that dementia can sometimes appear like depression. Poor concentration, memory problems and sluggish actions can both be present in elderly people with depression and dementia. However, constant short-term memory issues could indicate dementia, whereas a person’s ability to hold a conversation (or even recognise their memory problems) would make depression a more likely cause.
How to help your loved one overcome their depression
Here are ways to support your loved one through their possible depression:
- Don’t get angry at them. While you may be tempted to fuss at them for failing to take care of themselves – don’t. They likely already know. Instead, remaining calm is important if you want them to open up. By showing that you are listening, and not just getting frustrated with them, you will give them space to open up in time.
- Engagement is one of the most important things for anyone with depression. As loneliness and social isolation is a common factor among older people, it’s important to try and establish a support network. Engage with them as much as you can, and encourage friends and family members to do the same. If this is a struggle because of your schedule, consider hiring a carer. At Better Healthcare, our carers offer companionship and support to older people, in addition to completing household tasks.
- Social groups in the local area could help introduce them to the best friend they never knew they had. Volunteering can be a great way of socialising while also helping others and working towards a goal – an important factor if they are struggling with retirement.
- Exercise doesn’t just keep us in good physical shape but helps us stay in good mental shape too – so much so that it is said to be the ‘natural’ anti-depressant. Encouraging your loved one to do some gentle exercise like taking a walk down to the local park every morning is often a good start.
- Encourage them to seek help from their GP. GPs can prescribe the appropriate medication and/or refer them to therapy.
- Hire a carer to take care of their needs. At Better Healthcare, our highly-trained carers work with elderly people on a daily basis. We provide emotional support like keeping them company during quiet times, along with other support services like helping them to live independently and work towards certain goals.
Get support from Better Healthcare
A leading healthcare provider in England, we can provide carers who regularly check on your loved one and make sure they have everything they need. We can also provide dedicated round-the-clock carers who can ensure that your loved one is safe in their own home.
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- How to support a loved one with mental health
- Why people with chronic illness have a higher risk of depression
- The link between dementia and depression
This post is not health advice and should not replace professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances. It is intended to provide information of general interest about current healthcare issues.