Hero Flower Image

Understanding and Addressing Depression in Older Adults

A woman discusses issues she has come across as a family caregiver as she explores the benefits of family therapy in senior caregiving.
A senior couple wave at family members on a tablet device because keeping in touch with loved ones is an important way to reduce depression in older adults.
Managing depression in older adults can be challenging, but these tips can help.

The fear and isolation brought on by COVID-19 wreaked havoc on the wellbeing of older adults, with nearly half of seniors surveyed in a Kaiser Family Foundation poll stating that their degree of stress and worry was negatively impacting their own health. It is crucial to remain in regular and frequent contact with senior loved ones, in order to watch for any signs or changes which might signify a mental health concern.

According to psychiatrist Judith Feld, MD, MPH, “If a senior usually really enjoys a call with a grandchild, for example, but that seems to have changed, maybe you need to ask more questions, such as, ‘How can we be of help?’”

Other indications of depression in older adults to watch for include sleeping problems, loss of appetite, listlessness, and complaints about pain, which surprisingly, is often one of the main signs of depression in senior citizens. Be aware of anything that is out of normal for a senior’s character and personality.

It’s essential to recognize that depression is not just an unavoidable aspect of getting older, and that it can be a serious – but treatable – condition.

Here are some further guidelines to help effectively assess an older adult’s mental health:

  • Make sure the conversation is natural and organic, without coming across as interrogating. Statements such as, “Tell me what has been happening in your life recently,” will entice a loved one to open up significantly more than, “Tell me what the doctor mentioned at your last scheduled appointment.” The aim is to be caring yet not condescending, being mindful not to try to parent your mother and father.
  • While seeing and talking with the grandchildren on Zoom is a good way to boost a senior’s state of mind, be sure to allow for some one-on-one time to talk sans children.
  • Pay attention to what’s going on in the background of your video chats for any additional clues, for example, whether the home looks tidy and well maintained, along with personal hygiene – unkempt, disheveled hair, for instance.
  • Take into consideration whether substance abuse might be a factor. This can be particularly harmful if there are potential interactions with medications a senior loved one is taking.

In the event that you suspect depression or any other mental health issues in your senior loved one, be sure to contact the physician right away. Because you are most familiar with the senior, you might be able to pick up on signs that the medical team misses during routine appointments, and it’s important to help make your concerns known.

If you have any concerns, get a hold of CareFor for further assistance. We can function as your ears and eyes when you’re not able to be there in person, and provide a wide array of customized services to increase socialization and quality of life at home. Give us a call at (512) 338-4533 or reach out to us online for additional information. CareFor provides professional in-home care services in Austin, Georgetown, San Marcos, and throughout the surrounding areas.

Return to Blog