Signs Your Elderly Loved One May Be Suffering From Depression and How to Help

Do you find yourself reflecting on recent changes in your aging loved one’s behavior? Maybe your dad used to light up when you mentioned going fishing, but now he’s hardly interested anymore. Or your mom looked forward to your weekly coffee dates, but now there’s always an excuse why she needs to cancel.

Seniors are at risk for depression just like people of any age. It’s estimated that between 1 and 5% of seniors suffer from major depression. And this number rises to 11.5% in older hospital patients and 13.5% in those who require home health care. However, depression is not an inevitable effect of aging and can be overcome.

In honor of World Mental Health Day, which fell on October 10 this year, here are some common causes and symptoms of depression in seniors. Also, what loved ones can do to help the road to recovery.

Causes for Depression in Seniors

Although growing older is often associated with many joyous occasions (such as grandchildren), it can also bring about significant life changes. Consequently, there are several factors to consider. Common causes for depression in seniors include:

  • Health problems. About 80% of older adults have a chronic health condition, and 50% have two or more. Illness, changes in mobility, chronic pain, cognitive decline, or recovering from surgery, can increase a senior’s risk of depression.
  • Social isolation. Many seniors live alone. And the need to relocate may have separated them from longtime friends. As a result, loss of mobility, especially the ability to drive, may contribute to a feeling of isolation.
  • Reduced sense of purpose. Retirement is something that many look forward to, only to find that they feel a loss of identity or purpose. Others may experience physical limitations that prevent them from enjoying activities the way they used to.
  • Anxiety. Anxiety caused by financial worries, health issues, or a fear of death may contribute to depression.
  • Loss of loved ones. The death of friends, family members, a spouse or partner, or even a pet can be a blow that’s difficult to recover from. What starts as grief may grow into something more.

Signs of Depression in Seniors

It’s normal to feel a little down every once in a while. Certainly, a person who is grieving can find moments of joy. In contrast, a person suffering from depression is constantly down. Because signs of depression aren’t the same with each individual, they can be easily attributed to other causes. However, if you notice your loved one showing any of the following symptoms, it may be cause for concern:

  1. Feelings of despair or hopelessness.
  2. Loss of interest in things they used to enjoy.
  3. Appetite changes or significant weight loss or gain.
  4. Changes in sleeping habits. Insomnia or oversleeping can both be signs of depression.
  5. Anger and irritability.
  6. Loss of energy or low motivation.
  7. Feelings of worthlessness.
  8. Reckless behavior or talk of suicide.
  9. Increased use of alcohol or other drugs.
  10. Trouble with memory or concentration.
  11. Unexplained aches and pains.
  12. Neglect of personal care.

What You Can Do

If you see signs of depression in your elderly loved one, don’t avoid the subject. First of all, talk to them about your concerns. It is most important to really listen to them. It’s possible they haven’t considered depression as a possibility for their symptoms. They may believe that what they feel is a natural result of life changes. Consequently, they may not understand that they could feel better with the right treatment.

Encourage your loved one to talk to a doctor. Also, you may offer to go with them to talk to their healthcare provider about diagnosis and treatment. Above all, medical issues that contribute to depression need to be addressed.

As your loved one starts on the road to recovery, there are things that you can do to support them. Consider what may have led to their depression in the first place, and offer support with their specific circumstances in mind.

For instance, if their depression was brought on in part by loneliness, medication alone won’t be effective. Thus you can help them find opportunities for social engagement.

If you suspect that your elderly loved one is suffering from depression, don’t let it go untreated. Depression isn’t hopeless, and with the proper treatment, your loved one can once again find joy in life.

Visit the Davis Community’s Assisted Living and SNF in Wilmington NC

If you or loved one are no longer capable of living a safe, independent lifestyle, then call the Davis Community today at 910.686.7195 or simply complete and submit our online information request form. We provide exceptional assisted living and skilled nursing services in Wilmington, NC.  We offer a strong and supportive environment where your loved one will feel welcomed and part of an active community. Davis Community is pleased to offer customized concierge home care services, including meal preparation and nutritional guidance, to independent seniors living in Landfall, Cambridge Village, Wrightsville Beach and Porter’s Neck, NC. Get to know the difference today — schedule a visit to the Davis Community!




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