Does Mom not quite brighten up like she used to when you stop by? Has Dad started making excuses to skip his bowling league each week? Maybe your aunt takes longer than usual to return your calls and seems distant when she finally does. If you or a loved one is showing decreased interest in normal activities, take heed. Depression may be the cause.
How do you know if you or a loved one is suffering from depression? Loss of interest in normal activities is one of the most obvious signs. People with depression tend to withdraw from those around them, and this may happen slowly or abruptly. They may say they don’t feel like going out, make excuses for not attending events they normally enjoy, or spend less time on hobbies. Or you might notice that a senior in your life has stopped taking care of themselves. They might skip appointments, bathe less often, or avoid preparing meals for themselves. If your mother is the type to carefully do her hair and makeup each morning and stops doing so, she may be suffering from feelings of depression.
Signs of depression can also be less obvious. Your loved one may complain of aches and pains that don’t seem to have a cause, have trouble concentrating or sleeping, experience appetite loss, feel tired more often than usual, or have less patience with their grandkids.
To make matters more confusing, certain medications or combination of medications commonly taken by seniors can cause or worsen symptoms of depression. This is why it is so important to have a team of qualified medical professionals overseeing your loved one’s care; they will be able to tweak treatments as needed and warn you in advance of any possible side effects.
Depression in elderly people is quite common, but there is no need for seniors to suffer, and plenty you can do to help. Start by stepping in as soon as you feel something is not quite right. You can start by taking simple measures to help your loved one feel better. Call them more often, make plans to do something together next weekend, and ask others to do the same. The stronger your loved one’s social network is, the more likely they are to overcome depression and be able to enjoy life again. If your loved one is overwhelmed by something, encourage them to take small steps each day to accomplish their goal. For example, if they are in the process of downsizing their home, the thought of sorting through boxes and clutter can seem insurmountable. Encourage them to work for only small amounts of time each day, or to hire help for the job.
If simple measures don’t help your loved one feel better, it is time to contact a medical professional for help. Most people with depression do better and recover more quickly with treatment. Medication and counseling are often used together to optimize results. Also take into account Mom or Dad’s living situation and whether adjustments should be made. Treatment of depression is best accomplished with careful oversight, and this may be more difficult when someone lives alone.