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How To Help Elderly With Depression

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Risk Factors For Senior Depression

Diagnosing Depression in the Elderly

Many of the risk factors for depression at any age also affect the elderly. Genetics and family history, having had another mental illness or previous bouts of depression, brain chemistry and structure, and a lot of stress can all predispose a senior or anyone of any age to experiencing depression.

Its also important for you to understand the unique risk factors that older adults may face. If your loved one has any of these, be on the lookout for warning signs of depression. For instance, having a chronic illness can trigger depression, and seniors are more likely to be battling one or more diseases, like cancer, diabetes, or heart disease. Having a physical disability can also increase the risk of depression, as can being socially isolated or lonely. If your older family member has few social contacts, depression can be a real risk.

Other factors that may increase the risk of a depressive episode in older adults include taking certain medications that trigger depression, losing loved ones, having a brain disease like Alzheimers, lacking a sense of purpose with no job and no one to take care of, and financial stress.

Depression In Elderly Adults: Signs Symptoms And Treatment

Depression isnt a normal part of aging. This serious but treatable medical condition can affect how older adults think, feel, and live. Depression impairs cognitive and physical abilities in seniors, reduces quality of life, and affects overall health.

Depression in elderly adults isnt widespread, but seniors who have other medical conditions are more likely to have it. In fact, depression affects up to 12% of seniors who are hospitalized and up to 14% of seniors who receive home health care, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, studies show that depression in seniors often goes unnoticed and untreated.

Although occasional feelings of sadness are normal, if you suspect your aging loved one is depressed, its important to get help. There are many effective treatment options that can help elderly adults with depression.

People At Risk Of Depression

While the exact cause of depression isnt known, a number of things can be associated with its development. Generally, depression does not result from a single event, but from a combination of biological vulnerability, personality, life experiences and recent events, particularly those involving loss.

Some factors that might be associated with the development of depression include:

  • family history of depression
  • personality factors
  • challenging life experiences
  • serious physical health problems, including chronic pain
  • loss of independence
  • drug and alcohol use.

In older people, depression may occur for different reasons, but physical illness or personal loss are common triggers.

Factors that can increase an older persons risk of developing depression include:

  • an increase in physical health problems or conditions such as heart disease, stroke, Alzheimers disease or cancer
  • chronic pain
  • particular anniversaries and the memories they evoke.

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Gratitude Practice Apps Or Meditation

There are many apps on phones and tablets that serve as a gratitude journal . Journaling and meditating at the start or end of a day allows us to be mindful and grateful of our life. We can think about the people and things we value and how much we can appreciate life. It helps boost serotonin when youre feeling distressed. Reminiscing and reflecting upon our past achievements and victories can give us a serotonin boost, which is a happy chemical in our brain!

Treatment Of Depression In Older Adults

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Effective treatment of depression in older adults can require more than one approach.

Psychotherapy: Ongoing, talk therapy can be a source of support for elderly patients. Short term, solution focused therapy can also be effective in helping elderly patients eliminate thinking patterns and behaviors that contribute to depressive symptoms. Research shows that making adjustments for older patients to include addressing physical health and religious/spiritual beliefs improves treatment outcomes. 7

Support groups: Groups designed to connect older adults experiencing similar issues are beneficial in establishing social support and providing a safe space to talk.

Medication: Antidepressants can be prescribed to relieve the symptoms of depression. Antidepressants can have significant side effects, and elderly patients are sensitive to medications. Medication should be closely monitored.

Lifestyle changes: Daily exercise, healthy eating habits, and increasing social support are all important in helping elderly patients with depression. Friends and family members can help by doing the following:

  • Schedule group outings
  • Assist with transportation to medical appointments
  • Cook and freeze healthy meals for easy preparation
  • Help create a system to ease with taking medication regularly

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Do You Know The Signs

Depression may sometimes be undiagnosed or misdiagnosed in some older adults because sadness is not their main symptom. They may have other, less obvious symptoms of depression or they may not be willing to talk about their feelings. It is important to know the signs and seek help if you are concerned.

Depression has many symptoms, including physical ones. If you have been experiencing several of the following symptoms for at least two weeks, you may be suffering from depression:

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or empty mood
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
  • Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
  • Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
  • Appetite and/or unintended weight changes
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, suicide attempts
  • Restlessness, irritability
  • Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems without a clear physical cause and/or that do not ease even with treatment

Recognize That Depression Is An Illness

Family members should be aware of the disability that depression can cause and should avoid making depressed parents or relatives feel guilty by telling them to get out more or pull themselves up by the bootstraps. “I have seen people so sick with their depression that they can’t get out of bed,” says Dr. Streim.

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Who Is At Risk Of Later

Older people face a number of unique challenges significant lifestyle changes, such as bereavement, retirement and loss of independence, and development of physical and mental conditions.

This can lead to feelings of grief, loss and loneliness, and these as well as poverty, illness and reaction to medicines can increase your risk of developing depression in later life.

However, experiencing depression is not a part of the ageing process. Many older adults find meaning and purpose in their life and dont struggle with depression.

People over 65 years of age who are more at risk of depression include those who have:

  • had a previous episode of depression
  • a family history of depression or suicide attempts
  • misuse of alcohol or other substances
  • had childhood trauma
  • responsibilities for caring for others
  • chronic or severe physical illness
  • experienced grief or loss.

Onset of depression in later life may be a risk factor for or an early sign of dementia.

Provide More Social Connections

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Social isolation is one of the most common reasons seniors become depressed. Fortunately, it is a simple problem to solve. Start by creating a stronger support network around your loved one. This should include:

  • Scheduling regular visits from friends and family
  • Providing adequate home care support
  • Supporting social activities for your loved one by providing transportation
  • Encouraging your relative to sign up with hobby groups and social clubs
  • Showing seniors how to get started on social media
  • Making use of support groups that offer in-home social visits for seniors
  • Using technology to allow more face-to-face connections

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How To Help An Elderly Person Who Is Sad

Sadness is part of life and no one escapes it. However, there are stages in which it is easier for it to flood us. One of these is the third age, that time in which we begin to see youth as a distant horizon that is gradually being left behind. Many wonder how to help an older person who is sad and feels trapped by this emotion, which becomes recurring.

There are several reasons to experience sadness in old age. As in adolescence, suddenly the body changes and that is beyond our control. The relationship with the family and with the social environment also changes. Many stop working regularly at this stage and others have to deal with grief for their partner, friends, and dreams that are probably no longer going to come true.

Helping an older person who is sad is not as complicated an intervention as it may seem in some cases. It is true that the physical limitations are greater, which in turn restricts the range of possibilities. However, the margin is usually wide and there is room for alternatives, plans and projects that can excite the person.

Talking To Your Doctor

If you think you have depression, the first step is to talk to your doctor or health care provider. Your doctor will review your medical history and do a physical exam to rule out other conditions that may be causing or contributing to your depression symptoms. He or she may also ask you a series of questions about how youre feeling. It is important to be open and honest about your symptoms, even if you feel embarrassed or shy.

If other factors can be ruled out, the doctor may refer you to a mental health professional, such as a psychologist, counselor, social worker, or psychiatrist. Some providers are specially trained to treat depression and other emotional problems in older adults.

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Stay Calm And Look For Solutions

It can be very alarming to discover that a loved one may have depression. However, reacting with panic, anxiety, or anger is the worst possible response. Being overly emotional will only make your loved one feel more anxious themselves, which can worsen their condition.

They may believe that your emotional reaction is their fault, which will have a stronger negative impact on their mental health. They may retreat into themselves and refuse to discuss the reasons they are depressed.

Instead, do your best to remain calm as you encourage your loved one to talk to you about how they feel. Your goal is to have a compassionate and open conversation about what is bothering them.

Ways To Alleviate Senior Loneliness And Depression

How is Depression in the Elderly Different and How Can You ...

As humans, we strive to live healthily and pursue success and happiness. There needs to be a balance between physical and mental well being. When you think about senior wellness, its usually associated with physical health or dementia-prevention, but we often forget that seniors also might struggle with loneliness and depression.

Mental Health America lists some startling facts about seniors and depression in the United States:

  • 1 out of 17 Americans aged 65+ suffer from some form of depression
  • Seniors aged 65+ account for 20% of all suicide deaths in the United States
  • Approximately 68% of Americans aged 65 and over know little or nothing about depression

As we age, sometimes changes occur that might cause us to experience stress and sadness. The transition from work to retirement, the death of a loved one, or the diagnosis of an illness, can all make us feel uneasy, anxious, unhappy and contribute to depression over time. According to Healthline.com, some symptoms of depression are:

  • loss of interest in normal activities
  • feeling sad, unhappy, or empty
  • changes in appetite
  • difficulty sleeping, insomnia, or sleeping too much
  • irrational reactions or angry outbursts
  • difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • thoughts of suicide or death
  • unexplained pain

Common depression symptoms in older people are more likely to be:

  • Constantly feeling tired
  • Having trouble sleeping eg) insomnia
  • Grumpiness or easily irritable
  • How Home Care can be a solution.
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    Helping Yourself When You Have Depression

    • Ask for help: It’s the same at any age, you don’t have to put up with being depressed. Tell your GP how you feel.
    • Keep active: It can be hard to get our regularly because of physical problems, but it’s worth doing. We know that if you keep up some regular physical activity, you tend to feel better. And if you are alone at home, you are more likely to brood on things, which can make you feel even worse.
    • Stay connected: It helps to keep your mood up by:
    • keeping up with hobbies and interests
    • staying in touch with friends and family
    • visiting your local library or local lunch clubs and day centres.
  • Try to eat properly: If you lose your appetite, it’s easy to lose weight and run short of important vitamins and minerals. Older bodies cannot adjust as well as younger ones – so this can really affect your health. Beware of stocking up on chocolate and biscuits – these are quick and easy to eat, but they don’t have the vitamins and minerals to keep you feeling well.
  • Remind yourself that depression is an illness – not a sign of weakness. You are not being lazy or letting other people down.
  • Tell someone if you feel so low that you have thoughts of taking your own life.
  • Don’t keep your feelings to yourself. Talking to somebody does help.
  • Watch your drinking. Alcohol can make depression worse. It can also react with any tablets you are taking.
  • Try not to panic about not sleeping properly. It will get better when the depression lifts.
  • Can Psychotherapy Help Relieve Depression In Older Adults

    Most depressed people find that support from family and friends, involvement in self-help and support groups, and psychotherapy are helpful. Psychotherapy is especially beneficial for those who have gone through major life stresses or who prefer not to take medicine and have only mild to moderate symptoms. Itâs also helpful for people who canât take drugs because of side effects, interactions with other medicines, or other medical illnesses.

    Psychotherapy in older adults can address a broad range of functional and social consequences of depression. Many doctors recommend psychotherapy along with antidepressant medicines.

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    Tip : Find Meaning And Purpose In Life

    To overcome depressionand stop it coming backits important to continue to feel engaged and enjoy a strong purpose in life. As we age, life changes and you can lose things that previously occupied your time and gave life its meaning. Retirement, the loss of close friends or loved ones, relocating away from your social network, and changes in your physical health, finances, or status can impact your mood, confidence, and sense of self-worth. But there are still plenty of ways you can find new meaning in life and continue to feel engaged in the world. Sometimes its just a matter of reframing how you think of yourself or the aging process.

    Focus on what you can still do, not what you used to be able to do. Maybe you feel frustrated that youre not able to do everything you once could, or at least not to the same levels? Or perhaps negative ideas about growing older have dented your self-confidence? Instead of focusing on what you once did, try focusing on the things you can do. Youll see just how much you still have to offer.

    Learn a new skill. Pick something that youve always wanted to learn, or that sparks your imagination and creativitya musical instrument, a foreign language, or a new game or sport, for example. Learning new activities not only adds meaning and joy to life, but can also help to maintain your brain health and prevent mental decline.

    Write your memoirs, learn to paint, or take up a new craft.

    Causes Of Depression In Older Adults

    Depression in older people

    As we grow older, we often face significant life changes that can increase the risk for depression. These can include:

    Health problems. Illness and disability, chronic or severe pain, cognitive decline, damage to your body image due to surgery or sickness can all be contributors to depression.

    Loneliness and isolation. Factors such as living alone, a dwindling social circle due to deaths or relocation, decreased mobility due to illness or a loss of driving privileges can trigger depression.

    Reduced sense of purpose. Retirement can bring with it a loss of identity, status, self-confidence, and financial security and increase the risk of depression. Physical limitations on activities you used to enjoy can also impact your sense of purpose.

    Fears. These include a fear of death or dying as well as anxiety over financial problems, health issues, or abuse or neglect.

    Recent bereavements. The death of friends, family members, and pets, or the loss of a spouse or partner are common causes of depression in older adults.

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    Why Depression Is Often Overlooked In The Elderly

    Many older people don’t receive the help they need and end up suffering unnecessarily from the full effects of depression. There can be all kinds of reasons for this. For example, depending on the individuals involved, elderly depression can be overlooked or go untreated because:

    • People may mistakenly believe that a consistently depressed mood is a normal part of aging or a normal reaction to stressful circumstances.
    • The symptoms may be more physical than emotional.
    • Older adults may see mental illness as a social stigma and try to keep it hidden.
    • Doctors, caretakers, or family members may miss or mistakenly rationalize away certain signs or symptoms.
    • The effects of multiple medications or various illnesses may mask symptoms or make it difficult to perform accurate evaluations.
    • Depressed seniors are sometimes misdiagnosed with dementia or suspected of being hypochondriacs.
    • Substance abuse can make it difficult to sort out various symptoms and their causes.
    • Poverty can make it more difficult for low-income seniors to get the help they need, so they choose not to report their symptoms to anyone.
    • Older adults with depression may offer various excuses for not wanting to participate in daily activities rather than directly explaining the symptoms they’re experiencing.
    • Some seniors are too isolated for anyone to notice their symptoms.
    • Seniors who are depressed may mistakenly think that help isn’t available.

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