Community Blog

Six Signs of Senior Isolation and Depression and Six Ways to Help

By Debbie Humphrey

I have a friend in Tampa whose Mom, a 78 year-old woman in small town Kentucky, was diagnosed with alcohol-related dementia. Her Mom has not accepted this diagnosis and does not recognize the symptoms she displays to everyone around her every day. I’ve seen it. Her children have seen it. Her friends and neighbors see it practically every day. Even though Barbara has lived alone since her youngest daughter moved to Tampa to start a family approximately 35 years ago, senior isolation and depression has never been an issue until now.

For many years, Barbara was a single Mom, and she worked several jobs to provide for her four children. Being a very outgoing person, she always demonstrated outstanding social butterfly skills. However, as her mental condition has continued to decline – even faster now, since she won’t quit drinking alcohol – her mood swings have become immense and more frequent, rendering her feeling isolated, emotional and depressed. Tomorrow, she may want to venture out. Today, she wants to do nothing.

It is very easy for once active seniors to feel isolated and depressed when illness, disease and injury prevents them from doing things they once loved. The situation worsens when they lose their spouse, family members or loved ones. In the case of our beloved Florida snowbirds, they may live too far from family and friends, causing them to feel alone and isolated.

Whatever the case, there are symptoms of depression that you and I can detect so we can stay proactive to remedy situations of isolation and reduce the overall risk of depression:

Irritability. Mood swings, heightened emotional sensitivity, and really low lows, can be a sign of depression.

Lack of Personal Care. When someone shows signs that they don’t care about their appearance by not bathing or not wearing make-up they normally would apply, these are indicators of depression.

Social Withdrawal. Depression can trigger a “Hermit” response in aging adults. They no longer want to participate in social situations and would rather stay home, away from friends and family.

Elevated Pain. It’s no secret that when one is in pain, their level of activity decreases. Depression also “amplifies physical pain,” according to Dr. Gary Kennedy, Chief of Geriatric Psychiatry at Montefiore Medical Center and Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York.

Illness or Surgery. Seniors suffering from a major illness or recovering from surgery, are "much more likely to develop a depressive episode, and some go on to have a depression disorder," said Dr. Kennedy. “In fact, research shows that 15% of people who are discharged from a hospital leave with depressive symptoms.”

Recent Loss. Obviously, losing a loved one is difficult no matter what your age. However, seniors in bereavement are at greater risk of depression than younger adults.

Once you recognize that a senior loved one or friend feels isolated and is slipping into a depressive state, there are ways you and I can help them break the isolation and lift their spirits:

Living Situation. If someone, like my client described above, lives alone in an isolated situation, consider other options, like assisted living communities, adult day care, and senior centers to get them involved with others their own age, and increase their opportunities to socialize.

Pets.  If your special senior someone does not have a pet, consider getting them one from a local shelter. Pet therapy is fun and medicinal! Having a furry friend to care for has shown to lower blood pressure, and anxiety, boost memory, and contribute to an overall sense of well-being.

Mobility. If a senior is no longer able to get out and walk or drive, this can increase the sense of isolation. Transportation assistance gives them the opportunity to get out of the house to do meaningful things, like going to the salon or barber shop, do some shopping, or participate in community events.

Hobbies/Interests. If a senior you know enjoys volunteering at a local hospital, or they enjoy dance, theater or any number of hobbies, there are programs available to keep them active and engaged in activities they love.

Technology. Not all seniors have embraced technology, but if you and I can teach them basics in order to surf the internet or skype with family and friends, they are much less likely to feel isolated and become depressed.

Resources. There are numerous resources available from Home Helpers, non-profit organizations, and senior citizen programs to assist in your efforts.

In the some cases of senior depression, medications and various therapies may also provide solutions. I am happy to offer what resources I have, and I am available for a FREE consultation to discuss what my team of caregivers and I can do to help. We offer transportation assistance, companion care, respite care, and so much more!

Home Helpers® is honored to have been awarded the Provider of Choice 2017 award from Home Care Pulse recently, and we proudly serve male and female seniors in Clearwater, Dunedin, Palm Harbor, Safety Harbor, Tarpon Springs, Holiday, New Port Richey, Trinity, Port Richey, Hudson and surrounding areas. Contact me today to learn more about the many services offered through Home Helpers® We are Making Life Easier℠ 727.972.2539

Source: A Place for Mom