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How to Help the Elderly With Depression

As our parents age, we see them lose health, friends, and abilities. We may wonder or think that our elderly parents or an elderly friend may be depressed, but you may not be sure and if they were depressed, what would you do?

After writing several articles and a book on depression in the elderly, I wanted to bring this very important topic to light. Often our older adults go undiagnosed when depression occurs, let alone remedial measures are taken.

The following will give you the basics and ideas on ways to identify the possible causes and treatments of depression so your elderly parent can live a quality life again.

Risk factors for depression in the elderly:

Being female

Having a family history of depression

Being unmarried, especially a widower

Lack of supportive social network – family, friends, carers

Stressful life events – such as moving, losing someone, etc.

Physical conditions such as; stroke, hypertension, diabetes, cancer and dementia

Certain medications or combinations of medications

The fear of death

Damage to body image. This can be an actual physical loss, such as a leg due to diabetes or loss of vision. Often, though, it’s the personal perception that you can no longer move around easily, the hand shaking makes it difficult to do things, the loss of strength, the loss of being seen as attractive or beautiful. Changes in skin, hair color, loss of teeth, loss of hearing, loss of some memory or ability to speak.

Previous suicide attempt

Drug abuse

Previous history of depression

Living alone

Social isolation

Lack of interest in personal care (skipping meals, forgetting medications, neglecting personal hygiene)

Possible causes of depression:

Life changes such as death of a spouse, moving from their home to another place, etc.

Being alone and without a strong support system

Medical problems

Losses: loss of independence, loss of mobility, health, career, no longer able to do a hobby or other interest.

Loneliness and isolation from shrinking social circle due to death or relocation.

Reduced mobility due to illness or loss of driving privileges.

Reduced sense of purpose – a person still needs to feel that they are contributing and needed.

Health problems such as illness or disability, chronic and severe pain, cognitive impairment, damage to body image due to surgery or illness.

Fears – fear of death or dying, anxiety about financial problems (real or perceived) or health issues.

Medications can cause or worsen depression.

The death of a long-term spouse or partner is deeply traumatic.

Frustration with memory loss

Changes in the family – it could be the death of a sister or brother, a child, an adult child, etc.

Moving to a new home and not adjusting to it.

Drugs and substance abuse – this is a bigger problem than most people realize.

Frequent stomachaches or headaches.

Tired and lazy – tired of feeling this way.

Treatment for depression in the elderly:

Self-help options may include (a family member, friend or carer can help):

o Going out into the world – Try not to stay at home all day. Go to the park, take a trip to the salon or have lunch with a friend.

o Connect with others – Limit your alone time. If you can’t go out to socialize, invite your loved ones to visit or keep in touch by phone or email.

o Engage in activities you enjoy – Pursue whatever hobbies or pastimes bring you or are used to bring you joy.

o Volunteering your time – Helping others is one of the best ways to feel better about yourself and regain perspective.

o Care of a pet – Get a pet to keep you company.

o Learning a new skill – Choose something you’ve always wanted to learn or that sparks your imagination and creativity.

o Enjoy jokes and stories – Laughter boosts mood, so exchange humorous stories and jokes with your loved ones, watch a comedy or read a funny book.

o Maintain a healthy diet – Avoid eating too much sugar and junk food. Choose healthy foods that provide nutrition and energy and take a daily multivitamin.

o Exercise – Even if you are sick, weak or disabled, there are many safe exercises you can do to build your strength and boost your mood – even from a chair or wheelchair

o Emotional support with patience and compassion. Do not criticize the feelings expressed.

o Someone to go to the doctor’s appointment and help advocate.

o Someone to make sure appointments are kept, medications are taken, doctor’s recommendations are followed, and a healthy diet is consumed.

Traditional Medical Treatment Options (not all and seek professional advice):

* Prescription drugs, such as SSRIs

* Cognitive Counseling

* Support groups

* Supportive Counseling. includes religious and counseling counseling

* Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)

Natural Treatment Options (not all inclusive and seek professional advice):

– St. John’s Wart – cannot be taken with antidepressants

– 5-HTP – cannot be taken with antidepressants

– SAMe – can be taken alone or with antidepressants to reduce the required dose.

– Increase Omega-3 in the diet

– Take a quality multivitamin

– Self-talk programs that play in the background and can be used to help in a variety of areas other than depression. They help you “talk” to yourself in a more positive way. You can even listen to them while you sleep.

– Keep a Mood Journal and see what and when you have moments of depression or symptoms of sadness and why.

– Magnetic therapy

– Acupuncture

– Aromatherapy

– Color therapy

– Homeopathy

– Health Touch and Therapeutic Touch

– Different types of Energy Medicine

If you suspect that your loved one has depression and would benefit from some form of treatment, see a professional to assess the severity of the depression and make sure it is depression and not a medical reason causing the depression and determine the best form of treatment . There are several information websites for older adults that can give you some information, but The Practical Expert is the only expert on senior parenting. Getting some help, from any professional source, can make the process of dealing with a depressed older person easier, less time-consuming, and more likely to produce a positive outcome.

Depression in the elderly is seriously underdiagnosed and useful information is not as readily available to help caregivers and family members to be helpful. That has now changed, just because you have read this article, you can now help an older adult live a fuller life.

(As with all health products and making any changes to your usual health care regimen, consult your physician first. Natural supplement products and claims have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The information provided is not intended to diagnose, treatment, cures or prevents any disease.)

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