Depression in Elderly People: Tips for Helping Your Aging Loved One
Melissa* could tell that her father was suffering. He’d dropped several pounds in the last few months, was reluctant to bathe and kept canceling his weekly card game with friends. His once infectious laughter and zest for life had all but disappeared but when Melissa tried to discuss her father’s mental health, he became defensive and agitated. Melissa felt stuck; she wanted to help but didn’t know how.
Depression is not a normal part of aging, but unfortunately, it is very common in aging adults, especially in light of COVID-19. Depression in elderly people can appear through various behaviors, at varying degrees of severity and while every person is unique, there are some specific yet simple things you can do to help make their daily lives easier.
Here are few things you can do to help your aging loved one re-establish connection in their life which makes the tasks of daily living more enjoyable:
Stay calm: It’s natural to be worried, but being overly anxious or impatient will likely only cause your aging loved one to put up an emotional barrier or feel embarrassed. Instead, engage in compassionate conversation about what might be bothering them. Make it clear that you are there to listen, without judgment, to anything they want to share.
Create a support system: Loneliness is a common feeling among aging adults. Providing your loved one with dedicated time and attention can be really valuable for them but sometimes difficult for families to manage on their own. Arrange a care companion to assist with daily routine, household tasks or even to play games and tell stories. This will alleviate the demand on your schedule while safely encouraging your loved one to feel more comfortable connecting with others.
Example: TeamLife Care Partner, Gerri, safely conducting her approved group care visit outdoors.
Help with meal prep: Loss of appetite is common in aging adults, even those that are not experiencing depression. This is why it is incredibly important that you help make sure they are getting proper nutrition. Prepare simple meals and snacks that they can consume even when they don’t feel like eating much. Here are few meal ideas shared by our TeamLife Care Partners:
· Smoothies loaded with fruit, greens, yogurt, and protein powder.
· Nourishing soups like split pea and ham, homemade chicken noodle, or roasted tomato.
· Protein-packed egg salad that can quickly and easily be made into sandwiches.
· Fiber-rich oatmeal cookies loaded with nuts, raisins, and flax seeds.
Tips for Treating Depression in Elderly People
Here are some effective options to try with older adults experiencing sadness before exploring more medical treatments.
Random Acts of Joy: Accepting and adapting to the various challenges of aging can be frustrating and difficult for everyone involved. We have found that incorporating random acts of joy into care visits pauses their sometimes heavy reality while helping your aging loved one feel appreciated and loved.
“You made his 92nd birthday so special even though he wasn’t feeling well. You are all so special and I appreciate you making an impact in my Dad’s life…” -TeamLife client, August 2020
Art therapy: Incorporating art promotes self-expression, facilitates positive emotion like pride and stimulates cognitive function. Painting, pottery, and music are few examples of activities we offer that have had therapeutic effects. Pet or Infant Visits: Incorporating pets or infants into care visits has been incredibly successful with our clients. We have seen numerous examples of how, with client/facility consent, contact with animals and infants improves depressive symptoms and can even help with memory recall.
Example: TeamLife approved cuddle care visit per client’s request (pre-COVID-19).
Supporting your loved one in their journey towards better mental health can take a toll on your own needs.. At the end of the day, navigating this period with compassion, non-judgment and sourcing additional care support when needed will make things much easier for everyone.
TeamLife Health Group offers a variety of resources designed to fit the unique needs of aging adults and their families while fostering safe independence and dignity during life transitions. To learn more about how our services including on-demand care through TLC-CareNow can help, contact us today.
*All photos and stories have been shared with the explicit consent from TeamLife Health Group’s caregivers, clients and their families.