Family members always want their senior loved ones to be happy, comfortable, and pleased with their lifestyle. But depression in seniors is negatively impacting a large portion of these individuals as they struggle to maintain these mindsets as time goes on.
When people get older, they become subjected to stronger feelings of sadness, regret, and discontentment. Some people feel that depression is a normal part of the aging process but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The concept of successful aging is achievable by all as long as you know the right steps to take.
Avoiding depression in seniors can be possible as you learn how to understand and recognize the causes and signs. From there, you can also take the proper measures to prevent these feelings in the first place.
What Causes Depression in Seniors?
There are many possible reasons why a senior may become depressed as they get older. Some may begin to go down that road because of their own thoughts and feelings, while others might begin to feel depressed because of the actions of people in their lives.
Some of the most common causes of loneliness and depression in seniors include:
- Illness: Especially when it comes to cognitive conditions like Alzheimer’s and dementia, it is easy for an elderly individual to become depressed and withdrawn.
- Elder Abuse: Whether they are abused by a family member, a caretaker, or someone else, depression is one of the most common results of senior neglect and abuse.
- Death of a Loved One: As seniors get older, they are more likely to experience the loss of friends and family members, which can leave them feeling sad and lonely.
- Medications: Some prescription drugs have side effects that include feelings of anxiety and depression.
- Major Life Events: These can be changes ranging from relocating to a new home, a family member moving away, or similar circumstances.
- Genetics: Some studies have shown that feelings of depression can be hereditary.
- Conflict: If a senior has a significant argument with a loved one, they may begin to feel emotions of guilt and shame, which can also lead to depression.
Signs of Depression in Seniors
While knowing about the potential sources that can cause these feelings is important, it’s even more crucial that you’re able to recognize what depression looks like. As many as 20% of seniors over 65 years old have experienced depression in one way or another.
These feelings of sadness and despair can range from minor depression or major depression to dysthymia or even a dysthymic disorder.
So, how do you know if it’s depression?
While a doctor should be the one to verify these thoughts and emotions, there are a few key things you can watch for. The most notable signs of depression in senior could be one or more of the following:
- Frequent irritability
- Decreased energy, oversleeping, and fatigue in general
- Having a difficult time concentrating or making even simple decisions
- Lack of appetite or no desire to eat
- Guilt, shame, or discomfort
- A pessimistic or hopeless attitude
- Lack of interest in hobbies
- Suicidal thoughts
8 Ways to Avoid Depression in Seniors
1. Enjoyable Activities
The best way to combat depression is by staying busy and engaged. When a senior has too much free time, it allows their thoughts and feelings to wonder, leaving them open to sadness and anxiety. Look for hobbies, interests, and other activities to keep their minds sharp and focused on things they enjoy.
2. A Healthy Diet
How does malnutrition relate to depression and loneliness in seniors? Putting good, nutritious foods into your body is a quick and easy way to feel great both physically and mentally. When seniors follow a healthy diet, they will have more energy and feel more prepared to handle the tasks that come with everyday life.
3. Daily Exercise
It is much easier to avoid depression in seniors when they are living a healthy lifestyle that even goes beyond what’s happening in the kitchen. Elderly individuals should remain active with simple exercises, outdoor activities, or simple walks around the block. These actions should be done on a daily basis to ensure they can boost their overall wellness with each passing day.
4. Caring Companionship
Loneliness is one of the biggest pathways leading to depression in seniors. That makes the need for a caring companion essential to their mental health. This could be a friend, family member, or an in-home care provider that is able to be there for the senior every day.
5. Reminisce About Old Memories
Looking back and remembering the “good old days” is a wonderful way to create joy and happiness in the lives of senior citizens. As they think back on old friends, past memories, and significant dates that meant something to them, these individuals will renew the good feelings they had during those times. Help them remember everything from birthdays and anniversaries to the births of their children and beyond.
6. Get Good Sleep
While a good night’s sleep can become more difficult as people get older, it is key to avoiding depression in seniors. It is important that these individuals follow a consistent routine and follow the best tips to be well-rested. A few of the recommendations above such as a healthy diet and exercise can also play a significant role in someone’s ability to have a good sleep at night.
7. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or Counseling
If a senior is already beginning to show signs of depression, it is a good idea to seek out a medical professional for help. They will likely recommend the senior go through cognitive behavioral therapy to determine the cause and the best way to treat their feelings of sadness or anxiety.
8. Prescription Medications
While this is typically used as a last resort, there are medications available for the various types of depression. A medical doctor will be able to refer seniors to the most effective prescriptions for their condition and will then monitor there progress to ensure the depression doesn’t worsen over time.
Help Your Senior Loved One Avoid Depression
Maintaining a healthy diet, exercising daily, and getting a good night of rest are a few of the best ways to keep your senior loved one from feeling depressed. As you make a point to recognize the potential causes and keep an eye out for the signs, you’ll be able to help these individuals be happy from day to day.
If you’d like your loved one to have the added benefits of caring companionship and in-home care, the team at Pacific Angels would love to be there. Give us a call today at (831) 708-2876 to learn more and see all the ways we can help!