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Dealing With Aging Parents’ Depression: How To Help An Elderly Parent

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Depression is not a normal part of aging. However, older adults are at increased risk for depression. There are many reasons for this. As people age, they often face losses – such as the death of spouses, friends, and pets.

They may also retire from jobs or suffer from medical conditions and/or un-diagnosed mental health problems.

All of these can affect one’s quality of life and lead to feelings of sadness, loneliness, and worthlessness.

Your elderly parents may become more depressed because they’re worried about their children and grandchildren. They may also be concerned about money and their ability to live independently.

Being a caregiver for someone with depression requires knowing how to provide both emotional and physical support. And if you’re new to the role, it can be overwhelming to know where to begin.

There are so many different factors that can contribute to someone’s depression.

If you have never been through it yourself, it’s difficult to comprehend. I never understood my husband’s depression fully until after he died which plunged me into a very deep depression. It truly does feel like a very dark, deep hole that you can never get out of.

Many adult children find themselves in the position of caring for their aging parents. This can be a difficult and emotional task, especially if one or both parents are dealing with depression. While it can be difficult to understand what your parent is going through, it is important to be sympathetic and supportive.

In this article we’ll talk a bit about some things that you can do to help your aging parent if they are suffering from depression.

Is It Depression Or Just Sadness?

I know quite a bit about depression, more than I ever wanted to know. My late husband suffered with it for many decades. Depression affects not only the person, but the entire family.

I also know that real depression is far different from just being “sad”. It’s a chemical imbalance in the brain that causes a person to lose interest in life, feel hopeless, and sometimes have thoughts of suicide.

Depression and sadness are linked but are not the same. Sadness is an emotion that everyone experiences, often after stressful or upsetting life events. Depression is an overpowering and ongoing mental health disorder that can drastically impact on daily living.

Depression is debilitating. It can make it hard to get out of bed, let alone take care of yourself or others. And, as we age, our risk for depression increases.

Regardless of what may be causing this serious illness, it’s important to recognize the signs and get help if necessary. There’s no single answer when it comes to the best way to deal with aging parents’ depression. But there are some general tips that can help.

If you suspect that your aging parent is suffering from depression, the first step is to get to a psychiatrist or health care provider like their doctor. Of course, let them know that you’re concerned and offer your support.

It seems to make sense that older people could easily become depressed. After all, they are getting older and most likely are starting to experience some medical problems. They may be less active than they used to be and their social circles may have shrunken.

It’s natural for anyone with these issues to feel overwhelmed and down. But for some people, these feelings don’t go away. They may be dealing with a common problem known as clinical depression.

Clinical depression is more than just feeling down or going through a tough time. It’s a serious illness that requires treatment.

What Is The Most Common Cause Of Depression In Older Adults?

There are many possible causes of depression in older adults, but the most common is loss. The death of a spouse, family, friends and even pets can be a very difficult event to deal with, and it can often lead to feelings of loneliness, sadness, and isolation.

My sweet mom-in-law is now 100 years old and she told me just the other day that the hardest part about growing older is losing loved ones.

Other common causes of depression in older adults include retirement, chronic illness, and financial problems.

If you are worried about an aging parent’s depression, it is important to talk to them about their symptoms and help them get the treatment they need.

What Are The Warning Signs Of Depression In Older Adults?

There are a number of warning signs that can indicate that an older adult is depressed. These include changes in sleeping patterns, eating habits, energy levels, and mood.

Studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source estimate that 7 million American adults over the age of 65 experience depression each year. The CDC also reports that adults over the age of 65 made up 16 percent of all suicide deaths in 2004.

Older adults who are depressed may also withdraw from social activities, have difficulty concentrating, and experience feelings of hopelessness.

Signs Of Depression In Elderly Adults

One of the most difficult things about dealing with aging parents is their depression. It can be hard to see them shutting down and giving up on life, especially when they’ve been such active, vibrant people in the past.

But depression is a real illness, and it’s important to understand that your parents are going through a tough time.

Depression is a thief. It steals your days, your sleep, your laughter, your memories, and your hope.

Shane Koyczan

As our parents age, they may start to experience more health problems and emotional issues.

As a child or adult child of an aging parent, it’s important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of depression, as well as how you can help your parent if they are dealing with this condition.

Common Signs Of Depression

  • Persistent feelings of sadness, emptiness, or hopelessness
  • Loss of interest in activities that used to bring enjoyment
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Changes in sleep patterns, such as difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, or sleeping more than usual
  • They may have a change in appetite and either lose or gain weight.
  • Loss of energy or increased fatigue
  • Increased restlessness or irritability
  • Their mood may be off – they may seem more weepy or irritable than before.
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

If you notice any of these signs or symptoms in your aging parent, it ‘s important to talk to them about it. Depression is a serious condition, but it’s also treatable. There are many options available, including therapy, medication, and support groups.

From 1980 to 1992, the suicide rate among persons age 65 and older increased nine percent, and most striking was a 35 percent rise in rates of suicide for men and women age 80 to 84. The suicide rate among males 85 years and older is six times the rate of the general population.

National Alliance of Mental Illness

It’s clear to see that this age group is in need of intervention when it comes to depression.

Don’t hesitate to reach out for help if you’re worried about your aging parent’s mental health. You can contact the National Institute on Aging’s Eldercare Locator to find resources in your area.

You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 if you or your parent are in crisis.

Who Is At Risk Of Depression?

There are many different risk factors for depression, and these can vary depending on a person’s age. For older adults, common risk factors include:

  • Having another medical condition (such as heart disease, cancer, or stroke)
  • Taking medication for another medical condition (such as high blood pressure or chronic pain)
  • Losing a loved one
  • Losing a pet
  • Losing the ability to perform daily activities
  • Having a chronic health condition that limits activity
  • Feeling isolated or lonely
  • Retiring from a job or no longer having a purpose in life
  • Having a history of depression

Any of these factors can contribute to a person’s risk of developing depression. And, as people age, they may be more likely to experience several of these risk factors at the same time.

The National Institute of Mental Health considers depression in people 65 and older to be a major public health problem.

The good news is that depression is treatable. With treatment, most people with depression can improve their symptoms and live a full and happy life.

22 Tips For Taking Care Of A Depressed Elderly Parent

When it comes to providing help to someone who is depressed, it’s difficult for family caregivers to know what the best thing could be to do. Believe me, I know! Not only did I care for my husband through his depression, I myself became extremely depressed after he passed away.

Even some mental health professionals struggle with finding the right type of medical and therapy for these types of mental health conditions.

The important thing to remember when caring for a depressed parent is to not get too discouraged.

Here are some tips for dealing with your aging parents’ depression:

  1. Understand the symptoms of depression.
  2. Depression can manifest itself in a number of different ways, so it’s important to be aware of the signs and symptoms. We mentioned those above.
  3. Be patient and acknowledge that their depression is real.
  4. Be understanding if they don’t want to talk about their depression. It can be a difficult topic to discuss, and some people may feel embarrassed or ashamed to open up about it. Just let them know that you’re there for them if they need to talk.
  5. Don’t try to fix their problems or tell them what to do – just listen.
  6. Encourage them to see their doctor or a mental health professional.
  7. Help them stick to their treatment plan, whether it includes medication, therapy, or both.
  8. Help them to participate in physical activity and to stay active and connected to others, even if it’s just joining a senior center or taking walks together.
  9. Make sure they’re eating healthy meals and getting enough sleep.
  10. Be there for them when they need to talk, but respect their privacy when they want to be alone.
  11. Keep an eye out for warning signs of suicide, such as talking about wanting to die or expressing feelings of hopelessness or spending a lot more time alone.
  12. Be patient with them and understand that their depression may not go away overnight. It takes time to recover from depression, just like it does from any other illness.
  13. Seek professional help if you’re struggling to cope with your own feelings or if you’re worried about your parent’s safety. Depression is a serious illness, and it’s important to get help if you’re feeling overwhelmed.
  14. Help them find a support group or therapist to talk to. Sometimes it can be helpful to talk to someone who understands what they’re going through. You may even want to do a few therapy sessions yourself.
  15. Encourage them to see their doctor regularly for checkups. Regular medical care can help identify any physical causes of depression and make sure they are getting the best possible treatment.
  16. Make sure they are taking any medications prescribed by their doctor. Depression often requires medication to manage effectively.
  17. Remind them that they are not alone and that you’re there for them. Let them know that you love them and support them through this difficult time.
  18. Help them find an activity or hobby that brings them joy. Doing things that make us happy can help us to recover from depression. Maybe your parent used to enjoy painting but hasn’t picked up a brush in years. Encourage them to start again and offer to do it with them.
  19. Depending on the severity of your parent’s depression, they may need help with day-to-day tasks. Offer to do things like run errands, cook meals, or help with housework. This can take some of the burden off of your parent and allow them to focus on getting better.
  20. Encourage them to get outside and get some fresh air, even if it’s just for a short walk around the block. Getting some exercise and vitamin D from the sun can help improve mood.
  21. Remind them that these feelings are temporary. That with help (medical and/or counseling) it will subside and get better.
  22. Finally, don’t forget to take care of yourself. It can be emotionally draining to deal with a parent’s depression, so make sure you have a support system in place for yourself too. Talk to friends or family members about what you’re going through, and consider seeking professional help if you’re struggling to cope.

Good care for a depressed elderly parent means being understanding and patient. It’s important to be there for them, to listen to them, and to help them find ways to cope with their depression. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, but with love and support, your parent can get the treatment they need and start feeling better.

Depression is a real and serious problem that can affect anyone at any age. But it’s especially difficult to deal with when it’s your own parent who is affected.

Remember, they may not be ready to talk about it, so don’t force the issue. Just let them know that you are there for them if they need to talk.

Younger people may not have as much experience dealing with depression, so it can be difficult to know how to help a parent who is affected by this condition. It’s important to be patient and understanding, and to provide support however you can. Seek professional help if you feel like you’re struggling to cope, and remember that you are absolutely not alone.

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