Life changes, at any age, can make one feel more vulnerable to experiencing depressive symptoms. Depression is common, especially as people are forced to stay at home because of COVID-19. The adverse effects of the pandemic are especially seen in older people who have problems with access to care and experience difficulty adapting to changing situations.
Aside from isolation that many has experienced over the past months, health problems, fears, and recent bereavements are causes of geriatric depression. It can be heartbreaking to see your loved ones go through geriatric depression. While many seniors are sent to assisted-living facilities to receive care, it might be better to see them recover firsthand.
Depression has different effects on older people. For people over 60, depression could also be tied to other medical issues. It puts them at a higher risk for diseases, reducing their ability to recover from physical treatments. Because of this, it is important to prioritize addressing these depressive symptoms in seniors, no matter how mild these seem.
Signs of geriatric depression are not very obvious. Many seniors who experience depression do not claim that they are sad. It is more of a lack of motivation and energy to do the things they used to do. This could include them feeling grumpy, confused, and struggling to pay attention. Others also show alarming changes in their body weight. Some do not enjoy the things they used to love. Here’s how caretakers can help seniors cope with possible depression.
Consult a professional.
Depression is a medical condition. If you think your loved one is experiencing geriatric depression, it is best to consult a professional about it. Professionals may suggest the following remedies to help your loved one recover from its symptoms:
- Psychotherapy. Psychotherapy is important because it can help your loved one unpack their experiences with a professional. Oftentimes, people get better by sorting their issues with their psychotherapist, especially if these are only mild to moderate symptoms.
- Medication. In other cases, medication is required to treat depressive symptoms. They are usually given prescription antidepressants to help them regain their strength.
- Electroconvulsive therapy. This treatment is often given to people who have depression or bipolar symptoms who are not responsive to other forms of treatment. It may involve electrical brain stimulation. During this process, the patient is under anesthesia.
- Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation. Almost similar to electroconvulsive therapy, the TMS is given to patients who have not responded to other treatment methods. It is a non-invasive procedure, with the patient awake while it is being done. The treatment is done over the course of more than four weeks.
Address their sleeping problems. Seniors who experience sleeping problems could have depressive episodes. Insomnia, in general, is a risk factor for depression in seniors. To prevent worsening episodes, have your older loved one keep a regular sleep schedule. A way to do this is to ensure that they do not take afternoon or daytime naps. If your loved one suffers from other sleep disorders like sundowning, keep them engaged with activities that require them to be upright, like simple chair exercises.
Not getting enough sleep is a problem, but getting too much sleep is also a cause for alarm. Excessive sleeping could also be a symptom of dementia. Sleeping in abnormal time periods could cause their brains and bodies to deteriorate.
Our beloved seniors must get the right amount of sleep. Ask a geriatric doctor for advice if a medication is necessary. Other doctors suggest psychotherapy to improve their mood and sleep schedules.
Suggest social interaction.
It could be a challenge for seniors to participate in social events, especially in the middle of a pandemic. While limitations are still in place, teach them how to attend family events and classes that they will enjoy online. These social activities, even when done online, can help improve their emotional and physical health.
Help them gain a sense of purpose.
Many people who battle with depression are not able to find their purpose. This keeps them feeling lonely even if they know that they are loved. To keep them from feeling such, encourage them to take up a new hobby. You can also spend more time with them by doing meaningful activities together. Volunteering can also help them feel better as they can help other people in need.
You can also entrust them with a new chore. They can be in charge of cooking, taking the dog out for a walk, or tending the garden. Keeping them active by entrusting these tasks can improve their mood and their outlook in life.
Older people who experience depression could be hesitant at first since a stigma attached to developing mental illness at an older age. Yet, depression is a harmful illness, especially for seniors. While life changes are normal, excessive loneliness can hamper their lives. Hence, we should encourage them to come out so that we can help accordingly.