Community Blog

What Caregivers Need to Know about Depression in Seniors and How to Help Them

By Michelle Brown

October is the month of “National Depression and Awareness”. Therefore, today, we’ve decided to create awareness about this condition among seniors, and their caregivers. Though clinical depression is becoming very common among seniors in the US, it is not at all normal for the elderly to be depressed. It’s unfortunate that many people assume (including older adults) that depression is perhaps normal in seniors because of their age factor, and the stage of life that they are in. But that’s not true!

Depression is equally damaging for seniors, and can affect their quality of life, negatively. Statistics show that:

  • Over 2 million seniors in the US aging 65 and above suffer from clinical depression
  • Seniors suffering from depression have 50 percent higher healthcare cost
  • Depression has become an important predictor of suicide in seniors living in the US

Understanding the Difference between Depression and Grief, and it’s Symptoms

The first step towards helping elderly overcome clinical depression is to first understand the difference between depression and grief. Characterized primarily by the ups and downs of life, grief is perhaps normal as it subsides eventually with time. However, depression on the other hand, does not subside with time. In fact, it aggravates it further, if nothing is done about it. 

Some of the most common symptoms of depression in seniors are:

  • Constant feeling of hopelessness
  • Lack of motivation
  • Loss of interest in activities that they once enjoyed
  • Appetite loss

Many seniors and caregivers alike, often misjudge or misinterpret their feelings and what they are going through as they attribute the symptoms of depression to grief associated with the losses that they face with age such as loss of a loved one, loss of independence and physical abilities.

How to Care for Seniors with Depression and Help Them Cope with it?

The good news is that depression is treatable. A variety of treatments including psychological and medical aids are available to help seniors overcome depression, and more importantly, reclaim their lives.

  • Talking or Cognitive Behavior Therapy is a great psychological treatment for depression. It helps in identifying and changing the thinking patterns that trigger depression. Also, it improves coping skills by inculcating a problem-solving approach, helping the elderly deal with conflicts and stress with greater strength and wisdom.
  • Lifestyle change is a simple yet a powerful way to combat depression, by adopting healthy habits like regularly exercising, eating well-balanced meals, and getting a good night’s sleep—all of which can help in treating a depressed soul. Exercising for 30 minutes daily helps boost feel-good chemicals in the brain while nutritious meals help keep the energy up and also, minimize mood swings.
  • Join a social support group. Help seniors you’re taking care of overcome depression by interacting with people. Social interaction can really help lower depression as the feeling of loneliness subsides.
  • You may want to take your loved one to a doctor and seek professional help if nothing works or if depression is triggered by an underlying disease related to aging like Dementia or Parkinson’s.