Depression, while considered common in adults, also affects the elderly population but is much less discussed. This condition can be serious, and can increase the risk of cardiac diseases among the elderly, as well as increasing the risk that illnesses will cause death. If your loved one is suffering from depression, it is crucial to help them get medical treatment as soon as possible from a qualified senior mental health center. Here's how to tell if your elderly family member could be struggling with this condition:
1. Your Loved One Has Become More Irritable Than Usual
If your elderly family member is usually genial or easy-going and suddenly becomes irritable or short-tempered, depression could be the cause. Snapping at nurses, their peers or other family members can indicate that your loved one is experiencing more sadness and frustration internally.
2. Your Loved One Has Lost Interest In Activities They Once Enjoyed
Losing interest in activities and hobbies isn't a normal part of aging, unless the person is going through the end of life stages. Signs that an elderly person may be depressed include not being involved in activities that they were once a part of, or no longer making time for hobbies they used to enjoy. For example, if your loved one found great joy in knitting, crocheting or reading and has suddenly stopped taking part in those activities, there may be an underlying mental health issue such as depression.
3. Your Loved One Is No Longer Making An Effort In Their Personal Care or Hygiene
If your elderly family member begins forgetting to take their medicine, seems not to care about maintaining good personal hygiene or even forgets to eat, this could be a signal of a chemical imbalance in the brain. Chemical imbalances can be responsible for depression and other issues such as dementia. These symptoms need to be reported to your loved one's health care provider or a senior mental health center immediately, as neglecting personal care can have serious health ramifications.
4. Chronic Pain that Appears to Be Unexplained or Seems to Be Getting Worse
Depression can cause physical pain in addition to emotional and mental symptoms. Elderly individuals who are struggling with depression may begin to have chronic pain that cannot be attributed to any condition, or pain that is associated with a health condition that seems worse than what the condition itself would cause.
What to Do If You Suspect Depression In Your Loved One
When an elderly family member begins showing signs and symptoms of depression, it is necessary to have your loved one evaluated as soon as possible by a mental health professional who specializes in senior care. Elderly individuals may be resistant to obtaining treatment as a result of the belief that depression is a sign of weakness or the fear they will lose their independence. You may be able to help them be more receptive by talking to them about how they feel and letting them know that seeking treatment is a healthy, positive way to deal with the situation at hand.
Avoid using negative terminology like "drugs," "mental health," "problems," and other similar words to describe what your loved one is experiencing. Instead, show your loved one that you recognize depression as an illness just like any other and getting help is a necessary part of being healthy again.
Suicide is a complication of depression and even if you think your loved one would never hurt themselves, depression can change everything. If your loved one ever expresses suicidal ideation or a desire to harm themselves in any way, contact a medical professional immediately. With the right treatment, your loved one can get back on track to feeling like themselves again.