Depression is a common mental disorder, characterized by sadness, loss of interest or pleasure, feelings of guilt or low self-worth, disturbed sleep or appetite, feelings of tiredness, and poor concentration.
Elderly persons tend to have a much higher risk of depression and suicide than the young because major changes and losses are more likely to take place in the later stages of life — e.g. medical illnesses, changes in physical status, loss of income on retirement, death of parents and friends, loss of a life partner and changes in accommodation arrangements.
Many depressions are overlooked or thought of as normal by the family and hence undetected. It is crucial to detect early and administer proper treatment to prevent unnecessary suffering.
Some common symptoms of depression include:
- A recent change in mood (especially pessimism, gloom and loss of cheerfulness)
- Poor concentration
- Loss of interest in activities
- A sense of guilt
- Changes in appetite and sleep
- Abnormal symptoms of severe anxiety or bodily complaints. (e.g. the affected person may develop unnecessary worry over apparently trivial issues, or may be constantly seeking attention for bodily aches and discomfort)
- Sometimes, depression can also cause memory changes
Depression often co-occurs with other serious illnesses, such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, and Parkinson’s disease. Because many older adults face these illnesses as well as various social and economic difficulties, health care professionals may mistakenly conclude that depression is a normal consequence of these problems — an attitude often shared by patients themselves.
Apart from seeking professional help, here are some tips to care for a depressed elderly:
1. Get active, get moving
Exercise not only increases blood flow to the brain, it releases endorphins, the body’s very own natural antidepressant. It also releases other neurotransmitters, like serotonin, which lift mood.
You don’t have to suffer through a rigorous workout to reap the benefits. Anything that gets you up and moving helps. Look for small ways to add more movement to your day: park farther from the store, take the stairs, do light housework, or enjoy a short walk. It all adds up.
Even if you’re ill, frail, or disabled, there are many safe exercises you can do to build your strength and boost your mood—even from a chair or wheelchair. Just listen to your body and back off if you’re in pain.
2. Choosing the right food and diet
Your dietary habits make a difference with depression. Start by minimizing sugar and refined carbs. Sugary and starchy comfort foods can give you a quick boost, but you pay for it later when your blood sugar crashes. Instead, focus on quality protein, complex carbs, and healthy fats, which will leave you satisfied and on an emotional even keel. Going too long without eating can also worsen your mood, making you tired and irritable, so do your best to eat something at least every 3-4 hours.
3. Getting quality sleep
Many older adults struggle with sleep problems, particularly insomnia. But lack of sleep makes depression worse. Aim for somewhere between 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. You can help yourself get better quality sleep by avoiding alcohol and caffeine, keeping a regular sleep-wake schedule, and making sure your bedroom is dark, quiet, and cool.
Get more advice or help
Here at SilverAlly, we understand that caring for an elderly with depression is both emotionally and physically demanding. Without proper medical knowledge and understanding about the medical condition might even lead to his or her further deterioration and estrangement from the family. You need not be alone in this journey. Contact us for a free face-to-face consultation today.