Family caregivers may easily mistake our loved one's mood swings as a normal part of aging. We may also mistake their grumpiness as part of their personality, especially when they experience lifestyle changes, like no longer driving or adjusting to new senior home care. The truth is that our loved one's blue behaviour and gloomy outlook could point to a greater concern: depression.
According to the Canadian Psychological Association (CPA), 20% of seniors living alone in our communities experience depression. As many as 25% of seniors with medical problems experience depression. The percentage increases between 30% and 50% among seniors living in nursing homes.
We should work with our loved ones' doctors and senior home care professionals to recognize and treat the psychological symptoms of depression like loss of energy and pleasure. We should also talk with our aging loved one to reassure them that depression is not permanent.
Depression can be treated in a number of ways, including education, lifestyle improvements, and medications. Consult your loved one's health care provider and senior home care nurse about medications and therapy treatment options that require doctor approval and monitoring. As family caretakers, we can also help improve our loved one's well-being and outlook.
20 Tips to Combat Senior Depression
- Begin talking openly about depression even if your loved one shies away from the topic.
- Include your loved one in health care and wellness decisions that affect them. Or get included yourself, if you're not already.
- Seek senior-driven organizations like the Ontario Society (Coalition) of Senior Citizens' Organizations.
- Involve your loved one in the planning of family outings and events.
- Encourage other family members to call and visit your loved one regularly.
- Get your loved one online to connect with relatives and friends.
- Start an appropriate exercise routine like walking around the neighborhood after breakfast.
- Let the light in by opening windows and doors, especially if your loved one is unable to exercise or do outdoor activities.
- Take your loved one to their favourite park or scenic spot weekly.
- Sign up your loved one for senior-led events or community classes.
- Plan a weekly family gathering like movie day or game day at your loved one's house.
- Motivate your loved one to continue to do things they love like gardening, painting, and the daily crossword.
- Read up with your loved on senior mental health guides and resources like the Canadian Mental Health Association's "Supporting Seniors' Mental Health" guide.
- Promote good sleep hygiene like going to bed at the same time every night.
- Invest in senior wellness medias like yoga videos, inspirational books, and meditation tools.
- Prepare healthy meals that include your loved one's favourite veggies, fruits, meats, and grains.
- Acknowledge your loved one's depression and depression-related symptoms in a positive way.
- Monitor your loved one's medication use for consistent intake and unusual side effects.
- Keep an on eye your loved one's alcohol consumption, especially if they are taking medications.
- Hire personalized and professional help to provide continual senior support like house cleaning, hospital support, and 24/7 on-call care.
Depression and Family Caregivers
Family caregivers are more susceptible to depression when caring for an aging parent or spouse. As family caregivers, we should not sacrifice our well-being because we feel responsible for our loved one's health and welfare. The CPA states "between 25% to 50% of older adults who care for a family member with dementia will experience depression" (2012).
There are resources to help if you are dealing with caregiver stress or depression. Try Care-ring Voice Network, a free tele-learning and web information platform, and seek professional senior home care to alleviate some of the stresses associated with caring for a senior loved one.