How to Know if Your Senior Is at Risk for Depression
One of the most difficult aspects of being a family caregiver can be managing your loved one’s mental and emotional health. The distinction between symptoms of aging and signs of mental or emotional problems is a difficult one to make if you aren’t sure what to look for. However, by understanding the factors that put your loved one at risk for depression and knowing how to spot red flags, you can help your aging family member make important changes, pursue helpful treatments, and do what it takes to stay as healthy as possible, for as long as possible.
Factors that Contribute to Depression Among Seniors
- ISOLATION: According to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau, around 11 million senior adults in the United States live by themselves. Granted that living alone doesn’t necessarily cause isolation and depression, it makes them significantly more likely, and it is one of the biggest environmental contributors to depression among people ages 65 and up. Living alone with limited mobility, sparse social interaction, and little to no personal human connection is enough to make anyone feel down. This is especially true among aging adults, whose lives become gradually more lonely as children grow up and move, friends pass away, and leaving the home in order to connect with other people becomes increasingly taxing and, in some cases, impossible.
- RELATIONSHIP STATUS & PERSONAL HISTORY: Statistically, elderly people who are most at risk of depression are single and/or socially disconnected. Seniors who have experienced stressful or traumatic life events are also at risk. Elderly women who are single as a result of death, separation, divorce, or other painful experience are particularly likely to become depressed as they age.
- PHYSICAL CONDITIONS: In theory, any debilitating condition or illness that keeps seniors cooped up can contribute to depression. However, there are some that have documented links to depression, such as stroke, diabetes, cancer, and other ailments that produce chronic pain. In conjunction with the effects of the illnesses themselves, being on multiple medications and enduring regular, painful treatments can also contribute to feelings of depression and sadness.
- INSOMNIA: Many seniors, especially those with Alzheimer’s or any other form of dementia, can experience difficulty sleeping. This can result in sundowning, anxiety during the night, sleepwalking, agitation, and other sleep-related challenges. The more depressive symptoms develop, the more difficulty your loved one will have getting to sleep and staying asleep. In turn, depressive symptoms will worsen as a result of insufficient sleep and the body’s ability to defend itself is decreased. All things considered, insomnia and trouble sleeping can ultimately have powerful, negative effects on your aging loved one’s mental, emotional, and physical health.
Even if a senior is not clinically depressed, per se, or does not have a history of depression, perceived loneliness and isolation resulting from any of the above can produce depressive symptoms. These can lead to a decline in cognitive function, exacerbated mental health problems, and increased risk of dementia, regardless of existing conditions or relatively good health. This is why it is critical that you become your senior’s eyes and ears and pay close attention, especially if they exhibit any of the above risk factors for depression.
How Can I Help My Loved One Manage Depression?
At Home Healthcare has come alongside many family caregivers in Texas, and we have the resources, staff, and experience to give your loved one the personalized care they need. We can provide the compassionate, knowledgeable, high-quality care your family member needs, and we can do so in a way that fits into your routine.
Speak with a member of our team today by calling (877) 959-9093, or tell us a little about your loved one and their needs by requesting care online now.