Our society reveres youth, emphasizing the positive aspects of youth and negative aspects of old age. It can be difficult to accept our new self as we age, knowing that our youth is behind us. With changes such as the loss of a spouse, poor health and the changes of retirement, it can be difficult to cope with the new normal.
In addition to dealing with major life changes, older people begin to fear the aging process – will they become unable to remain independent? Will they have physical problems that make aging difficult? Will they lose all of their friends and family and be left alone?
Depression is common among the elderly, but it can be treated. Signs of depression include:
- Weakness and physical complaints
- Loss of interest in appearance
- Loss of interest in activities and food
- Weight loss
- Low energy
- Feelings of guilt, helplessness or worthlessness
How to Combat Depression in the Elderly
The first thing you need to do is accept that your family member needs help. Once you’ve accepted it, you should reach out to their general practitioner. He or she can refer you to a mental health specialist who can help you and your parent come up with a plan.
Different therapies work for different people. For instance, support groups can provide new coping skills or social support if your parent is dealing with a major life change. Several kinds of talk therapies are useful as well. Don’t give up if the first option doesn’t work for your parent. Dealing with depression can take time.
In addition to therapy, your parent may be prescribed an antidepressant, medication to help them sleep better or even some lifestyle changes that can help with their depression.
Depression is a serious condition that should be addressed. Once you’ve gotten your parent on the right treatment track, you can work together to figure out what the triggers were and how to avoid them in the future.
There are a few steps you can take. Stay in touch with family and friends and let them know when you feel sad. Consider new hobbies that help keep your mind and body active. If you are faced with a lot to do, try to break the task into smaller jobs that are easy to finish.
Regular exercise can help prevent depression or lift their mood if they are somewhat depressed. Gardening, dancing, and swimming are other good forms of exercise. It doesn’t matter what they choose, as long as they enjoy it. Being physically fit and eating a healthy diet can also help avoid illnesses that can bring on disability or depression.
If your parent is home-bound or has recently lost friends, you may want to help them jump start their social life. It can be hard making friends as we age, but it is important to maintain social connections. Whether they join a group or volunteer for a cause that is important to them, choosing to be part of their community can help ward off depression as well.