Identifying Depression in Older Adults
Why is depression such a big deal with older adults? Many people think that it is normal for older adults to feel depressed. After all, they experience a lot of losses…career losses and identity as a result of retirement, loss of income, loss of loved ones as they pass away, and loss of physical strength impacting what they are able to do by themselves.
Older adults, long past the point of retirement or concerns about loss of income or physical strength, can experience loss from feeling confined in their homes, because they can no longer drive themselves or because there are fewer daylight hours during the cold months.
However, if symptoms of depression last longer than 6 weeks, it may mean interventions are required. Determine if there is a physical reason for the symptoms i.e. urinary tract infection, medications or sleep disturbances. When all physical needs are addressed, check for emotional or cognitive reasons for the depression. Are they getting regular exercise and eating well?
What are some of the symptoms that family members or caregivers should be concerned about if they notice them? A depressed person may not want to pay attention to proper grooming or feel like adhering to their normal schedule. They may not get dressed in the morning. Sometimes, they may appear demented, distracted or lack concentration. Poor sleep habits such as going to bed very late and not adhering to a regular routine can impact their brain functioning.
Cardiovascular conditions will often cause depression. They may also exhibit appetite changes. Check medications to see if they being taken as recommended and are working as anticipated. If you notice any of these symptoms, take action sooner than later. Depression has been shown to negatively impact health and cause a lower quality of life.
What can you do if you or a caregiver notices symptoms of depression? When you notice depressive symptoms over a period of time, first, eliminate any physical causes. Then seek assistance by calling Mental Health America at 314-773-1399 or, if acute and you feel suicide is possible, call Behavioral Health Response at 314-469-6644. They have a 24/7 mental health hotline available with counselors. Make sure your loved one is getting exercise and good nutrition. Consider counseling on a regular basis.
The isolation that many seniors experience living in their homes can encourage depression. Research indicates that even one visitor a week can make a difference in the life of a senior. Older adults need to feel valued and appreciated. Put together a schedule of regular visits to give them something to look forward to doing. Consistency and follow through is important. If you can’t make it, reschedule at another time. Another idea is to consider having a companion caregiver come in several hours a day or several days a week. This gives the person social interaction and stimulation which will improve their overall health and well-being
Age at HomeCare, a registry home health company, is owned and managed by Davis Allen, former Exec. Dir. of Sarah Care Adult Day Center. He has an MA in Human Resource Development and is a Certified Nurse Assistant. He continues to work as a companion caregiver with his own clients. All of his associates have previous direct care experience so they are attuned to the needs of their clients and families.
Resources for the Family Caregiver
Davis Allen, Owner