SENIOR SOURCE - Many of us spend more time with our extended family and loved-ones around the holidays than we do any other time of the year. Sometime that time apart before getting together enables us to see the subtle physical and mental changes that may not otherwise be apparent on a day to day basis. When an elderly loved one faces a depression diagnosis, friends and family are often unsure of what to say and do.
It can feel confusing and frustrating when attempting to understand what triggered the depression, and what to do about how it is affecting the person you care about. For those suffering, it is easy to feel alone and uneasy about discussing their depression, especially because they are working through it themselves. Helping our aging family members deal with the changes in their lives is a daunting experience. While physical issues are easily recognizable and usually addressed quickly, mental health symptoms are often overlooked, or simply regarded as a "normal part of aging".
Memory loss, confusion, depression, and dementia are warning signs that merit evaluation. If someone your care about is experiencing symptoms, you will make a difference just by being supportive. Let them know that you care about them. Health care professionals such as a geriatric psychiatrist or a geriatrician are good first line resources for diagnosis and treatment options.
Know the Triggers
physical disability from long-term illnesses
changes in living environment
loss of a spouse
While it's natural to experience some grief in the face of major life changes, clinical depression doesn't go away by itself, lasts for several months, and needs to be treated by a professional. According to NAMI, unresolved depression can affect the immune system, which makes the depressed person more susceptible to other illnesses.
Know the Signs
The National Institute of Mental Health reports that 6.5 million senior adults in America experience depression. Late-life depression is common, and can lead to an increase in suicide and exacerbation of illness. Just because depression is common does not mean it is normal. Treatment is warranted. The options vary and include medication as well as psychotherapy sessions and support groups.
As caregivers, we need to be vigilant in our observations of warning signs that indicate the need for professional evaluation. There is a difference between memory loss and forgetfulness, and between confusion and the inability to concentrate.
loss of appetite
increased use of alcohol or drugs
talk of suicide
Recognize that Their Depression is Real
Depression isn't just a bad mood or attitude. It's mental illness that needs treatment and care. Recognize and acknowledge that a loved one's depression is real and of value. It's not important to understand what makes a person depressed, but to simply understand that they are struggling with depression. Offer to go to the doctor with your loved one and remind them that they don't have to feel this way.
If you are caring for an aging family member and think they may have depression, contact their health care provider.
Being supportive of someone with depression doesn't mean you need to talk it through with them. Rather, consider their battle with depression as a marathon, and you are cheering for them on the sidelines. When they have a little victory, celebrate with them. When they have a setback, be there to remind them that the race is long and they are doing great. Sometimes, being there means knowing when to take a step back, as well. While usually family involvement significantly helps with the progress of an elderly patient, there are times that your family member may need more help from a psychotherapist and less intervention from you.
Depression doesn't go away quickly and recovery can go up and down. Patience and flexibility help show support that words can't often provide. Showing faith and hope in the recovery of a loved one is great encouragement. You can expect your loved one to have treatments like medication, exercise and various forms of therapy.
Call your health care provider if you feel persistently sad, worthless, or hopeless, or if you cry often. Also call if you are having trouble coping with stresses in your life and want to be referred for talk therapy.
Go to the nearest emergency room or call your local emergency number (such as 911) if you are thinking about suicide (taking your own life).
Find Services Near You
Access Mental Health Treatment through the Colorado Public Mental Health System, find services that are near you. CLICK HERE
If you need help and live in Boulder, Broomfield, Jefferson, Clear Creek and Gilpin counties, Senior Reach is a great resource. Call 1-866-217-5808 or go to CLICK HERE
Click on these links to see testimonials on how depression treatment has made a difference in people's lives.Senior Reach Can Help CLICK HERE
Senior Reach Helped My Change My Life
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