When senior citizens experience depression, the best course for treatment can sometimes be difficult to chart. Other complications arises when seniors are under the care of other family members. Depression can deeply affect caregivers as well as the person suffering from the condition, meaning that its consequences and it’s needed treatments can be more complex than when a similar condition presents in a younger person living independently. Despite the challenges that depression in seniors can present, it is important to not lose hope. There are treatment and management options available which can help improve the quality of life of everyone impacted by the appearance of the disease.
Occurrence of Depression in the Elderly
Unfortunately, depression in the elderly is a very real problem that appears in increasing numbers. Whether that is due to a shift in the clinical rates of depression among seniors, or whether it appears that way due to the aging population is something that researchers are still debating.
Depression in seniors springs from many causes, but it is often complicated by or linked to other existing health problems. For instance, in aging populations mobility often becomes a challenge. Mobility is one of the 6 activities of daily living (ADL’s), the loss of any of which can lead to a loss of independence. For many elderly people that loss of independence is an incredibly frustrating and sad experience. This can obviously contribute to the development of depression.
There is also evidence correlating the onset of various types of dementia and depression. These conditions are often associated although the exact nature of that association is still being researched. There may be physical factors related to the degeneration of the brain in dementia that contribute to depression, or it may be that the symptoms of dementia, such as memory loss, confusion, or the inability to perform certain tasks, contribute to the development of the depression as a secondary condition.
In these cases, appropriate interventions for the underlying cause can also help the depression. For instance, finding a senior with mobility problems the proper mobility aid can sometimes help them retain or regain an element of independence, which may also reduce the severity of their depression. For someone with dementia, working with an in-home caregiver or receiving appropriate care in an assisted living facility can help them be less frustrated or upset as a result of their disorder, also helping to alleviate depression.
Social factors are always a consideration when it comes to depression in seniors. As a person ages, they are faced with often losing many friends along the way. As their social circle shrinks, elderly people may find it difficult to make new friends and maintain adequate social interactions, something which is very important for preventing depression in the elderly.
Helping seniors to avoid loneliness is a powerful tool for combatting depression. There are many ways that this can be achieved depending on the individual person’s overall level of health and care requirements. For someone who is generally healthy, there are many seniors groups and clubs that provide opportunities for activities and social interaction that can help people form new friendships.
For people who are in need of more care, there are still opportunities to increase social interactions. For instance, some in-home care giving services place special emphasis on the social interactions their patients receive, helping the patient to feel less lonely and more connected to the world through the visits of their caregivers. Homes and assisted living facilities can also be helpful in this regard, especially if the facility has activities, social areas, or communal meals which allow for social interaction and the formation of new relationships.
When an elderly family member suffers from depression it is difficult for their families as well. In fact, family members caring for an elderly relative may often start to suffer from depression themselves if they watch their loved one battle with the condition. It is important for caregivers to recognize this in themselves, and to seek appropriate help when this occurs. Everyone wants the best care possible for their loved ones, but overextending yourself at the cost of your own health can lead to a cycle of depression that is difficult to break out of. When it gets to the point that you have to worry about what a loved one eats, when they sleep, how they get around the home, and their mental and physical well being, it can start to get truly exhausting.
Work to acknowledge the burdens that you have taken on, and never be afraid to ask for help when you need it. An assisted living facility is sometimes the best possible solution for everyone involved in an elder-caregiver relationship. Sometimes putting a loved one in an assisted living facility can be frightening, as you might not know what to expect, but the result can actually be an improvement in the quality of life of both the person in care, and their family back home.
Depression in the elderly is sometimes dismissed as a symptom related to the other health ailments a patient may have, but it needs to be acknowledged and treated. Looking at the underlying causes and conditions as well as appropriate depression therapies can help vastly improve the quality of life of not just the elderly, but also the family members tasked with their care.