Last Tuesday we discussed some of the signs and symptoms that can indicate your parent or loved one is suffering from depression. Today I want to talk about some ways that you as a caregiver can help your parent cope with depression, and hopefully move past it.
One of the key symptoms of depression is withdrawal from life, or pulling away from others physically, mentally, and socially. However, isolation and inactivity will only make your loved one feel worse. It is important to encourage and perhaps even push them to do some or all of the following to help them overcome senior depression:
Exercise has been proven to help combat and overcome senior depression, just as effectively as a mild antidepressant, bonus: no side-effects or drug interactions to worry about! Exercise does not have to be in a gym or involve equipment, it can be as simple as a morning or evening stroll (watch for dehydration). Even if your parent is disabled or frail there are still things they can do, with a doctors permission of course. A quick Google search can give you some ideas for simple exercises, such as the ones you can find on Eldergym.com.
It is important that your loved one not become emotionally and socially isolated. Your local community likely has some form of recreation center which may include classes and activities that are low cost or free for seniors. Look into your areas church or religious group as well. Informal outings to a library or book store can be less intimidating, but still stimulating. Be sure that your loved one has contact information for family and friends accessible and encourage them to keep in touch. Technology, such as iphones ipads, or skype, can be a great way to connect over distance with functions like facetime. Introducing your loved one to such technology can also have the added bonus of encouraging them to become involved in the increasingly common classes for seniors to learn how to use them.
Ensure enough sleep.
A lack of sleep can make depression symptoms much more severe. Be sure to ask your loved one about how often and how much they are sleeping if you suspect depression. Keep in mind that many medications can also affect sleep patterns, and it may be something to bring up to their doctor.
Help them maintain a Healthy diet.
As another symptom of depression is the lack of motivation for personal care and hygiene, your loved one or parent may not be eating properly, which can worsen symptoms. Monitor their food supply an watch for sudden weight loss, as well as sudden weight gain, which may indicate emotional or binge eating.
Check for proper medication usage.
Be sure that your loved one is taking their medications as prescribed. If you suspect a medication or an interaction may be causing the depression then be sure to contact your loved ones doctor to discuss your concern.
Encourage them to volunteer.
While your loved one may resist being social for social’s sake, they may take an interest in volunteering. Volunteering can help address both social isolation and exercise, depending on the activity. Examples may be a community garden or working at a local pet shelter.
Give them something to care about.
Be it a plant, a companion animal, or a fish, having something to care for has been shown to improve and help overcome senior depression in people of all ages.
These are just a few basic ways that you as a caregiver or concerned loved one can help to overcome senior depression.
We welcome any and all suggestions, so comment away! Next week we will look at dementia and depression and how to tell the difference.