As your parent ages, things change. Some of their previous interests and activities may be more difficult or even become impossible to do. We become more accustomed to loss of family and friends, and difficulty getting out and about can cause isolation. While older adults are too often misdiagnosed or inadequately treated for their depression, it is not a normal part of the aging process. Make sure you know the warning signs of depression in older adults so you can help them seek treatment.
We often erroneously associate irritability in seniors as normal growing pain. Too much time on their hands, aches and pains, less time with family; it all leads to this growing crankiness, right? Wrong. If your parent was once a happy, content person, a sudden change can be one of the warning signs of depression in older adults. If you think they’ve grown more irritable lately, monitor the situation. If it goes on for more than a few weeks, talk with them about it. Medical intervention may be necessary.
2. Social Withdrawal
Was mom once the life of the party? Sure, it’s possible she’s grown a bit more reserved over the years. Although if she’s stopped spending time with friends and family, or begun making excuses to get out of social gatherings, there may be more to it. Keep an eye out, and the next time she excuses herself from an activity, ask her why she doesn’t want to partake.
3. Increased Pain
We take it for granted that aging will mean achy muscles and increased ailments. A lifetime’s wear and tear can take its toll. If dad is complaining about his aches and pains more than usual, it could be among the warning signs of depression in older adults. The pain is real, but it could be a result of their mental state. Encourage him to discuss the problem with a health professional.
4. Extended Grief
We all experience grief when we lose a loved one. This can be especially difficult when we lose a spouse of many decades. The process is natural, and though the loss is never forgotten, the grieving process does end. However, for some seniors it goes on too long and morphs into depression. If you find the symptoms persisting a year later, it could be a sign they need help recovering.
5. Changes in Appetite
If your loved one used to relish new culinary experiences, and now they can barely stomach a couple of meals a day, there is certainly a problem. You’ll want to be sure it’s not due to a physical illness, so in either case you should encourage them to see a doctor.
If your loved one requires treatment, it may come in any number of forms such as talk therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, anti-depressant medication, lifestyle changes or a combination of these options.
Remember, it’s important to monitor your loved one for these warning signs. If you’re not able to spend enough time with them, helping them move to an assisted living facility may be in everyone’s best interest.
The loneliness and isolation due to spending too much time home alone can increase their risk of depression. If there’s no one around to notice the changes, they can easily become one of the many seniors whose depression goes undiagnosed or untreated. A senior living community may be a safer option.
Having professionals on hand 24/7 who know your parent and their individual personality, can give you both peace of mind.