Many aging adults experience depression throughout their life-time, however, in most cases it goes undiagnosed or is under-diagnosed. For seniors at home this can be a very tough time if they are living alone.
Many people think that depression is a normal part of the aging process, they think that it’s a reaction to a chronic illness. Aging adults often times have experienced loss because of their age and may not recognize the symptoms of depression in themselves. (1)
Due to failing health issues, changes in their economic status, changes in living conditions, or loss of friends an family to death, more and more seniors are becoming depressed. They may suffer from mental illnesses ranging from depression, anxiety, mood disorders and a reduced ability to complete cognitive functions. Depression in the elderly can be misdiagnosed as dementia, arthritis, cancer, heart disease, thyroid or Parkinson’s disease because the symptoms in an individual who has limited physical capabilities can be very similar.
An elderly person that is suffering from depression should be under the care of a psychiatrist or physician who specializes in geriatric care. This age group has a significantly larger number of health care issues than any other age group and they are usually on multiple medication regimens.
A psychiatrist or physician who is familiar with the elderly population is better equipped to prescribe medications to assist the individual in properly treating depression without creating another problem with side effects or drug interactions. For instance, symptoms of depression in the elderly can include memory loss, confusion, loss of appetite, vague complaints of pain, irritability and hallucinations. Many of these complaints mimic other conditions and some are not symptoms found in younger adults.
When it comes to treating depression for the seniors it can includes regular exercise, minimizing alcohol or recreational drug use, surrounding themselves with family and friends who are caring, and talking openly about their feelings with someone they can trust. Unfortunately, due to many seniors at home living alone or isolated many of these treatment protocols can be difficult to implement.
As time progresses the number of seniors who suffer from depression will also increase. Lifespans are increasing and the number of individuals successfully reaching 65 years of age is also on the rise. This means that more and more of the senior population may experience mental health issues. Caring for an an aging adult who is suffering from depression should be done in a setting that is appropriate for their age group and which addresses their other underlying medical conditions. Mental health care treatments and facilities designed for a younger age group will not adequately meet the needs of an aging adult that is 65 and older.
Here Are 5 Ways You Can Help Maintain Mental Health For Seniors At Home
If you’re caring for an elderly loved one it can be very fulfilling knowing that you’re taking care of your loved one to the best of your ability. Being a caregiver however, can be a mentally challenging role that can be exhausting to the point of despair. It takes someone special with infinite patience and caring capabilities. It can be a lot easier if it is a family member. If it is someone else’s relative, then it is harder to develop those qualities than if it is your own flesh and blood. Regardless of who you’re caring for, it’s absolutely necessary to do all you can to preserve your own mental health, as well as the mental health of your patient. There are several ways of achieving this. Below we’re going to discuss five of the most popular ones for you to try:
- Establish a routine – Establishing a routine will help you both to understand exactly where you are with each other. Some elderly people like a routine because it helps them to anticipate your activities. Breaking from that routine may unsettle them and provoke negative feelings towards you and your role. Seniors also sometimes have a habit of disliking anything new, so a routine will help to reassure them because it ensures that nothing new will be introduced without their consent. A routine will help you to move through the motions when necessary but it will also establish a role that you are both happy with.
- Take Regular Breaks – Taking a break from the elderly person or people that you are caring for can give you a chance to relax. It will help to relieve the stress that being a caregiver can puts on you. This could be a five-minute break while you’re working or a day off doing something that you love. Taking a breather will not only benefit you but also the person that you’re caring for. It will allow you both to gather your thoughts without causing resentment on either side. It may just be the time away you need to re-adjust your focus and gather your thoughts. It might also serve as a reminder as to why you decided to become a caregiver in the first place! As long as you gain that perspective, you will be able to go back to caring with more energy and positivity within a short period of time.
- Take part in activities that you both enjoy – These are commonly referred to as bonding activities because they capitalize on the common interests you share and they help build a strong foundation for your relationship. If you are looking after a stranger then this is essential in getting to know them properly. If you are looking after a family member then you are likely to give him or her joy just by spending that relaxing & quality time there.
- Come to an arrangement that suits you and your elder – It is unlikely that the elderly person you are caring for wants you in their home 24/7. Some will want you at their beck and call, but the majority like their own space and will only enjoy spending time with you for shorter periods of time or when it’s necessary. Independence is very important to the majority of seniors, especially when they may feel that it is being taken away from them. Always respect their wishes by coming to some kind of arrangement as to when you will be stopping by and what you will be doing together on a given day.
- Seek professional help – If you find that caring for the your loved one is getting to be a bit too overwhelming, and you’re becoming depressed as a result of that, then it may be time for you to reach out to an In-Home Senior Care Company that can offer assistance by providing you with a reliable caregiver either daily or several times a week. Hiring a highly trained caregiver is a great way to bring balance to your life, as well as your loved one’s life.
At Your Home Team Care our Caregivers are trained in sensitivity and compassion, dementia care and the correct protocol for Covid19 and all other infectious diseases. Whether you need a day to yourself or you need someone to come in for a few hours each day to help your loved one with personal care, housekeeping, errands & transportation, dementia care, nutritional care or companion care, our caregivers are here for you and your family to help ensure that your loved one maintains their independence. Being able to relax and get some time for yourself is a great way to bring balance to your demanding role as primary caregiver.
The most important thing to remember is that everyone’s situation is different and it all depend on your current circumstances. Seniors at home need someone to help them with different aspects of their life, so find what works best for you and your loved one.
RESOURCES & FACTS SIGHTED IN OUR POST CAN BE CREDITED TO THE FOLLOWING SOURCES:
- National Alliance on Mental Illness: Depression in Older Persons Fact Sheet
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Depression in the Elderly
- University of Massachusetts Lowell: Understanding Elderly Depression
- Harvard Health Publications: Depression in the Elderly is Complicated but Treatable
- Advances in Psychiatric Treatment: Suicide in the Elderly
- The Bulletin of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law: Silent Suicide in the Elderly
- National Institute of Mental Health: Older Adults: Depression and Suicide