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Depression in Senior Citizens: Warning Signs and Solutions

seniors suffering from depression

Depression can occur at any age, but senior citizens are particularly vulnerable. In fact, recent studies estimate that as many as 15% of senior citizens — in total 6.5 million Americans — suffer from depression, and 25% say they suffer from constant feelings of sadness. However, these signs can be hard to spot as loved ones may dismiss what they see and attribute it to old age, or seniors may downplay how they’re feeling in order to be less of a burden on their families.

To provide the best geriatric care, both family members and home care workers need to be well-versed in even the most subtle signs of senior depression. Symptoms of senior depression may include:

    • Irritability


    • Withdrawal or isolation from social situations or favorite hobbies


    • Weight loss or lack of appetite


    • Lethargy or lack of motivation


    • Sleep-related difficulties


    • Loss of self-regard or self-worth


    • Neglect of personal care


    • Feelings of sadness, helplessness, or hopelessness


    • Slowed movement or speech


    • Memory issues


    • Increased or unexplained physical pain


    • Increased use of alcohol or drugs


  • Fixation on death

While these are among the more obvious symptoms, many can be attributed to other conditions like dementia or even grief. That’s why it’s important not to disregard these signs and to talk to your loved one about what they’re experiencing.

Solutions for depression will differ for every person, but here are some ways to help:

    1. Keep them engaged
      Seniors underestimate the likelihood they’ll need long-term care, but estimates show that around 70% of seniors will require home care or care in senior housing facilities. When seniors live at home, they may feel isolated and unable to socialize. In home care workers provide more than just physical help; they also provide much-needed social interaction and companionship. Home health care workers can help your loved one get out of the house and out into the world, engage them in activities they enjoy and provide valuable interaction. You can also help your loved one by visiting them more frequently, recalling special shared memories, or swapping funny stories. Laughter really can be the best medicine!
    2. Adopt healthy habits
      You’d be amazed by how your loved one’s well-being can be improved with a little movement, better eating habits, and ample rest. Even if they aren’t able to exercise vigorously, a little extra movement can go a long way. Those who have senior home care may not have easy access to organized movement activities, but they can easily incorporate light movement into their daily routines. Eating more healthfully can also be a natural mood booster. Minimize sugar and focus on healthy fats, proteins, and complex carbohydrates. Seniors should also minimize caffeine and alcohol intake to help promote better sleep habits. 
    3. Consider professional help
      Medication should be considered only if other isolation or general life factors can be ruled out. This is because seniors are often more sensitive to drug side-effects and certain medications may not interact well together. Although antidepressants may be appropriate in certain cases, many families opt for more natural alternatives or even therapy. You should work closely with your loved one’s doctor(s) to determine what course of action will work best in their situation.

If you feel your loved one might be suffering from depression or isolation, don’t ignore the signs. Stay involved and seek out assistance from experienced professionals. For more information about how in home care may be able to help your loved one, please contact us today.

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