“My 72-year-old mother used to be vibrant and active, but since my dad passed away, she’s gradually become isolated and sullen. I’m worried that she’s depressed, but how can I know for sure?”
Home Instead Senior Care is finding that this type of question is being asked by an increasing number of Baby Boomers and other grown children of seniors.
While only a doctor can officially determine if a senior suffers from depression, according to the web site www.NIHSeniorHealth.gov, the following signs are excellent indicators that depression might be present in an elderly person:
feeling nervous or emotionally “empty”;
feelings of excessive guilt or worthlessness;
fatigue or a “slowed-down” feeling;
restlessness and irritability;
feeling like life is not worth living;
sleep problems, including trouble getting to sleep, very early morning wakefulness, or sleeping too much;
eating more or less than usual; or,
persistent headaches, stomachaches or other chronic pain that doesn’t go away when treated.
The www.NIHSeniorHealth.gov web site, a joint effort of the National Institute on Aging and the National Library of Medicine, recently added resource information on depression to their web site to help educate seniors and their families about this very common but often undiagnosed affliction.
Big life changes that occur as people age, such as the loss of a spouse, often lead to depression, though experts say it is not considered a normal part of aging. Even so, if depression is present, the sooner it is definitively diagnosed the better. If depression is detected, a doctor might recommend therapy or medication.
But in addition to these types of medical recommendations, it’s typically a good idea to encourage older adults with depression to try to “reconnect” with the world around them, and to rediscover hobbies and activities that will help them find their way back to society.
For instance, the older lady from the beginning of this story may be neglecting friendships and other interests she used to enjoy. Someone close to her could encourage her to invite a friend to lunch or coffee. Senior centers and places of faith are also great places for older adults to reestablish interactions with others in the community.
If the special senior in your life isn’t particularly outgoing, you can always call on Home Instead Senior Care. The company employs many senior home care CAREGivers who enjoy outings and activities with their eolder-adult clients. These CAREGivers, who are fully screened, trained, bonded and insured, can also assist with tasks such as meal preparation, light housekeeping, errands and shopping.