I wanted to draw your attention to a very sobering topic today. Depression in aging adults is a very common mental health issue that we need to understand and recognize. You may be experiencing depression yourself, or your loved one may be suffering from it. It's important to recognize why this issue is so common among the elderly, and what to do about it.
We ran across a great article over at the website MyAgingParent.com. They take a close look at the issue of depression and why older adults are at risk. First among them is why depression in aging adults occurs. Among the most common reasons were;
- Health Problems – Aging adults encounter a myriad of issues as they get older. Hearing loss, declines in vision, aches and pains and cognitive decline are often culprits.
- Loneliness – Older adults can feel isolated as they become less mobile. Extended families get busy with their own lives and visits an become less frequent. Social circles may be declining which adds to depression in aging adults.
- Loss of Friends or Loved Ones – This is a big issue, no matter what the age. This hits you squarely in the gut, and reminds many of their own mortality.
- Prescription Drugs – Interestingly, prescription drugs can cause depression. Blood pressure medications, cholesterol drugs like statins, and even antibiotics can cause depression in aging adults.
Depression is a true and treatable medical condition, not a normal part of aging. However older adults are at an increased risk for experiencing depression. If you are concerned about a loved one, offer to go with him or her to see a health care provider to be diagnosed and treated. – CDC
How To Fight Depression in Aging Adults
The folks at MyAgingParent say that there are many ways to fight depression. A few of the methods they encouraged were;
- Connecting With Others
- Getting Enough Sleep
- Eating Healthy
- Taking Care of a Pet
If you or your loved one may be suffering from depression, the worst thing you can do is nothing. The best thing you can do is reach out to someone for help. Just talking about this issue can free you up to get the help you need. Talk to a family member, friend, or better yet your doctor. The first step to getting better is recognizing that you have depression, AND there's something you can do about it.
Preventing Suicide and Depression in Elderly Loved Ones
Seniors are some of the most at-risk individuals for suicide for many reasons. The most common include social isolation, illness, and sedentary lifestyles. Seniors in the West often follow a detrimental path that can lead to severe depression and, consequently, suicide as a result of the cultural norms surrounding senior care. Here are a few ways you can help prevent depression and suicide in your elderly loved ones.
We cover lots of topics like this, see other posts about health and wellness.
Plan Social Events
Whether socializing means weekly family meals or a night at bingo, spending time with other people is critical for effective senior care. It is all too common for seniors to withdraw into their homes and avoid social contact, resulting in depression. Even if you live far away, it can be helpful to make regular calls to your loved one or even to use a free video conferencing system so that you can speak face to face.
Meanwhile, help your loved one find a fun activity or hobby group to occupy their time and provide human interaction. If you have a local senior center, it becomes very easy to find social groups for your loved one. Some great options are knitting circles, quilting groups, board game clubs, tai chi classes, volunteering, or even educational classes. A number of colleges across the nation offer free classes to seniors, offering an ideal way to keep the mind sharp while avoiding isolation.
Help Locate Exercise Groups
Exercise is another very important aspect of aging. A sedentary senior experiences much faster physical and mental deterioration whereas an active senior feels better, has a better quality of life, and is often more social. A number of senior-centric activities exist and are often fairly easy to find. You may want to start at the senior center and go from there.
One of the most popular forms of exercise for seniors is tai chi. Tai chi focuses on balance, a very useful tool in avoiding falls. It is low-impact, done in groups, and often performed outside in the fresh air. Another common senior exercise is swim aerobics classes. Water exercise is very easy on aging joints and improves flexibility, heart health, and endurance. Furthermore, these are often done in a group setting, offering the added benefit of social interaction.
Maintain Mental Activity to Help Prevent Depression in Elderly
Seniors who become unable to care for themselves as a result of mental deterioration often experience depression as a result of their dependence on others. A good way to prevent this from happening is to keep the mind active. On visits to your loved one, bring puzzles, crosswords, Sudoku, anything that requires thought and problem solving. Regular, creative use of the mind can stave off the common mental afflictions often experienced by seniors.
Related: Impact of Exercise on Alzheimer's Disease
This mental activity offers further benefits when coupled with other activities previously discussed: social interaction and exercise will increase brain function and keep the mind well. Activities like taking college courses and volunteering are an ideal way to maintain mental sharpness in seniors.
For seniors, a little extra love and attention goes a long way. They need and deserve high quality care to ensure their mental wellbeing and the avoidance of depression. When you take time to regularly call your loved one and encourage or help them participate in activities, you will play an important role in helping them stave off the feelings of loneliness and depression that can lead to suicidal thoughts.
Steve Johnson co-created PublicHealthLibrary.org with a fellow pre-med student. The availability of accurate health facts, advice, and general answers is something Steve wants for all people, not just those in the health and medical field. He continues to spread trustworthy information and resources through the website, but also enjoys tennis and adding to his record collection in his spare time.