Wintertime often feels like it can drag on for ages, especially when spending even more time indoors due to the pandemic. For many individuals, and especially for older adults, depression can become more common during this season due to the isolation of winter. If you are concerned about an aging loved one’s mental health, review these warning signs for elderly depression and ways that you can help.
Mood and mental health can be affected by a number of factors, and many older adults are going through transitions that are linked to depression or loneliness. A medical diagnosis or loss of a friend or family member is a common risk factor for depression, as is stress or problems sleeping.
A family history of depression may put someone at a higher risk for depression, and current or past issues with substance use may also cause depression. Social isolation and loneliness can impact mental health, and so can a lack of exercise or physical activity. And others may become depressed with no distinct cause.
If you are a family member or primary caregiver to an older adult, there are several signs of depression that you should watch for, especially in the darker days of winter. You may notice that they are having persistent feelings of loneliness, sadness or hopelessness. They may display a loss of interest in activities they once enjoyed, or have overall decreased energy or restlessness.
Older adults with depression may have trouble falling or staying asleep, or could start staying in bed and oversleeping. An extreme change in their appetite, either eating much more or much less than usual can be another symptom of depression. A similar sign to memory loss is difficulty concentrating, remembering things or making decisions. Depression can also cause persistent thoughts of death or suicide.
If you notice several of these signs lasting for more than two weeks, your aging loved one may be suffering from depression. The first step to helping them get treatment is to encourage them to talk to their doctor. If possible, you can even help them set up an appointment and accompany them to the office. Depression can be treated with a combination of therapy and/or antidepressant medications like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
Although depression cannot always be prevented, there are many things you can do with an older adult to improve their mental health and lifestyle overall. Aging individuals should try to get a good night’s sleep with 7-9 hours each night. They should also seek out regular physical activity and maintain a healthy diet. Participating in favorite hobbies or activities, especially with friends or family, is another great way to prevent isolation. Most importantly, if you are an older adult concerned about your mental health, reach out to someone you trust to get support.
At Senior Home Companions, we can help your aging loved one live a fulfilling and independent life at home as well as offer companionship in an assisted living community. Our caregivers are experts at providing personalized, non-medical support services ranging from a few hours a day to 24/7 care. And with an additional set of eyes consistently checking in on your loved one’s mood and well-being, we can help ensure that they are always getting the physical and mental health support they need.
If you are interested in learning more about Senior Home Companions for yourself or an aging loved one, please contact us today for your free consultation.