This month we’ve addressed ways to mitigate holiday blues and that familiar feeling of melancholy for both the caregiver and the loved one throughout the season. However, for an older loved one, that feeling of unhappiness, especially if it lasts well after the holidays may be signs of depression. Depression can be common in older adults and can come in many different forms. There are also many different reasons why depression might be triggered – including being associated with various medical conditions. For instance, depression has been linked to viral infections, malnutrition, stroke, lymphoma, hyperthyroidism, and others. Some medications are also commonly linked with depression.
Moreover, when an older adult or parent starts to lose some of the independence that they once had – whether caused by a deterioration of mental or physical capabilities – they might develop thought processes associated with “learned helplessness.” This happens when the loved one starts to see their failures (whether perceived or not) as a sign of being completely helpless and having no control over their own lives. Also, as mentioned in previous entries, the sense of loss can weigh heavily on a senior parent. This is not just due to loss of another family member, but also the loss of their previous capabilities, roles, or responsibilities.
It is extremely important to not diagnose depression on your own. Have your loved one assessed by a professional. What they may be experiencing might not be a disorder at all. It may be signs of another issue. However if you are certain your loved one has depression, here are three different eldercare solutions you may want to consider:
Antidepressants. This is usually provided as primary treatment for moderate to severe cases of major depressive disorder if preferred by the patient. Be sure to double check with doctors to ensure that these medications don’t interfere with anything else your loved one might be taking.
Psychotherapy. For those who are uncomfortable taking medication for depression, this is a suitable option. Psychotherapy helps identify factors in your loved ones lives that might be contributing to depression as well as teach valuable coping skills.
Depression Care management. This is a great treatment option for those who already are within an in home care system or care management program. Care managers will help identify signs of depression and facilitate treatment options, including ensuring that a healthy regimen is kept while working alongside a psychiatrist or physician.
Charlotte Bishop is a Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Case Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago. Please email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.