Over the years, depression has been recognized as a health condition that can eat away a person’s life, not just an “all in your head” issue.
While younger generations are paying more attention to mental health, depressed older adults are still reluctant to seek support due to the social stigma of depression.
On a brighter note, depression is manageable even though it is a long-term battle requiring much work and dedication. Aside from medication and professional help, some simple remedies can help combat depression in elderly parents and prevent it from worsening.
Explore our list of 8 ways to help your elderly parents deal with depression and rediscover happiness.
Elderly Depression Management: 8 Ways to Care for Seniors Dealing With Depression & Isolation
Depression in Elderly Parents: Signs and Symptoms
Depression is a chronic condition that negatively affects a person’s moods, wellness, actions, and reasoning, slowly cutting back their overall quality of life. While this mental condition can overshadow anyone at any age, it tends to hit older adults differently compared to younger adults.
Depression in elderly parents is frequently mistaken as general sadness or stress arising from age-related health issues and major life changes. This negligence leads to misdiagnosis, and untreated mental disorders can impair physical functioning and complicate existing chronic ailments.
What does depression look like in seniors? Signs of elderly depression you should watch out for include:
- Disruptions in appetite or eating habits: Do you notice that your parents no longer enjoy their favorite dishes or skip dinner entirely? Sometimes, there’s nothing wrong with your cooking skills. Depression can impact a person’s appetite and taste, making their go-to foods unappealing. Overeating, eating unhealthily, or eating nothing at all are other signs of depression in elderly parents you should be aware of.
- Sleep disturbance: Sleeplessness or insomnia is prevalent among seniors due to decreased sleep hormones. Be aware when your parents constantly complain about not getting enough sleep for several nights.
- Ongoing fatigue or tiredness: A low-energy day now and then is not the same as being worn out all day and night long. Fatigue is a common symptom of depression, affecting more than 90% of depressed people.
- Self-withdrawal: Shutting down or avoiding social interactions is another tell-tale sign of depression. When your parents fall into depression, they may no longer find interest in their day-to-day activities, hence no reason to venture out.
- Persistent sadness, moodiness, and “blues”: While sadness is a natural human reaction to disappointing life events, sadness sticking around longer than anticipated may tell that your parents are suffering from depressive disorders.
- Low concentration: The loss of concentration is a relatively common depressive symptom. Take this sign seriously if your parents turn agitated doing close-focus activities or tasks.
- Negative feelings and thoughts for no reason: Chronic depressive episodes can cause a person to fall into an endless cycle of negative thinking patterns. Pay close attention if your parents express feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness, or uncertainty.
- Unexplained physical symptoms: Depression and pain are connected. If your parents are getting weird pains and discomforts like stomach aches, headaches, or back pain, depression could be the underlying cause.
8 Ways to Help Your Parents Deal With Depression
Below are some approaches and tips to help your parents or someone you know overcome depression and recover from these trying times.
Choose Your Language
Since depression can stir up many foreign emotions, your parents may not understand what they are going through. As a caregiver, remember that your ways of communication are the critical starting point in such situations.
Even though your parents are now reliant on you, they are not your children. Avoid talking down to them, and choose your language carefully. Comprehension and empathy play a significant role in guiding your depressed parents through a mix of confusion and conflicting feelings. Establishing a mutual understanding lays a foundation for further discussions regarding treatment needed for their mental health.
Show Them They Are Appreciated and Loved
Love conquers everything. When your parents are at the lowest points of their lives, they need a little assurance from you, if not a lot. Show your parents how much you love and appreciate them.
Listening to them, giving them a hug, or telling them words of affirmation like “I love you” or “I understand what you are going through” can be a powerful lifesaver for seniors dealing with whirlwind feelings of loneliness and grief.
Help Your Parents Eat Right
Health experts have found an indirect connection between diets and depression. A study saw a significant drop in depression and anxiety symptoms when younger adults followed a Mediterranean diet for three weeks.
It is essential to clarify that food doesn’t cure depression in elderly parents, but adopting a healthy, nutritious-dense diet can help fight depressive symptoms and contribute to better health. Encourage your parents to eat foods packed with vitamins, nutrients, and minerals. Some other tips to keep in mind include:
- Add good protein sources
- Drink at least 8 cups of water per day
- Add more vegetables and fresh fruits
- Minimize the intake of sugar, salt, and saturated fats
- Limit consumption of caffeine and alcoholic drinks
- Include rainbow color foods in every meal
- Consider adding dairy supplements (always ask for doctors’ dosage guidelines first)
Encourage Physical Activities
Engaging in low-impact exercises and physical activities is crucial for battling depression. A moving body gets endorphins flowing. During exercise, the brain releases natural antidepressants, elevating mood and enhancing well-being. When motivating your parents to get active, mention a range of senior-friendly sports and activities they might enjoy, including:
- Aqua aerobics or swimming
- Chair exercise
- Brisk walking
- Stair climbing
- Resistance band workout
Go Out and Socialize
Depending on personal preferences, there is no guarantee that every senior will find socializing and meeting new people interesting. However, many studies have found that increased social interaction is associated with improved mental, emotional, and physical health.
Suggest your parents attend community clubs, have breakfast/lunch/dinner or coffee dates with friends, neighbors, or extended family members, and join in social activities and charitable events. If your parents are naturally shy or reserved, don’t pressure them to join the crowds unless they agree to it. Be sure to help them start small and assist them whenever possible.
Seek Outside Support
Caring for your parents who are dealing with depression can become more and more challenging over time. So there’s nothing wrong with seeking outside support, especially if you feel burned out.
Consider hiring home care services for your parents if you frequently travel for work or can’t stop by your parents’ homes every few days. Professional senior caregivers may be able to help your parents handle day-to-day tasks and keep their lives in order.
Touch Base with Their Doctors
The lack of follow-ups can cause common depressive symptoms (as mentioned above) to spiral and take the worst turn possible. Always prepare for plan B. Be sure to connect with doctors or a psychiatrist to understand your parents’ wellness clearly. In worst-case scenarios, a therapist may recommend an appropriate treatment plan and cater medication to keep depression in elderly parents at bay.
Consider Senior Living
Helping your parents transition into a senior living community could be a good option, especially if they are living alone.
In a senior living community, your parents can receive around-the-clock care and have more chances to connect with other senior residents in a supportive senior-centered environment and network. With various beneficial activities catering to seniors’ unique needs, senior living could help improve seniors’ well-being and help replace depression and loneliness with joy and community.
Depression is Not A Normal Part of Aging
Aging is strongly linked with various mental and physical health threats. However, depression is not a normal part of aging. Increased social interaction and engagement in active and recreational activities can help seniors reduce stress and rediscover happiness while dealing with depression.
Our 12 Oaks senior living communities offer a range of relaxation activities that promote your seniors’ well-being while closely assessing their mental health to deliver the best care possible. Our team members work diligently to create a family-like atmosphere where your parents can feel comfortable and happy.
If you have questions about depression in elderly parents or any topics discussed here, connect with us and learn more.
At 12 Oaks, our team of caring professionals is dedicated to keeping residents safe, engaged, and connected to their families and friends while leading fulfilling lives. 12 Oaks senior living communities are an ideal place to enjoy the encore season of life.
For questions or to schedule a personalized tour, don’t hesitate to contact us.
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