February 8, 2021 by Dean Bellefeuille

Elderly depression is serious and requires medical care.

The fear and isolation as a result of COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on the wellbeing of older adults, with nearly half of seniors surveyed in a Kaiser Family Foundation poll stating that their amount of stress and worry was adversely affecting their own health. Even though it still may be hazardous to visit in person with senior loved ones, it’s important to stay in regular and frequent contact, and also to look for any signs or changes that may signify a mental health concern, such as elderly depression.

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?’”

Additional symptoms and signs of depression to watch for include sleeping issues, diminished appetite, lethargy, and complaints about pain, which interestingly, is usually one of the main signs of elderly depression. Take note of anything that may be out of the ordinary for a senior’s personality and character.

It is important to recognize that depression is not simply an unavoidable aspect of aging, and that it really is a serious – but treatable – condition.

Here are some further ideas to help thoroughly assess a senior’s psychological state:

  • Make sure the conversation is organic and natural, without coming across as interrogating. Statements such as, “Tell me what’s been happening in your life this week,” will persuade a senior to open up a lot more than, “Tell me what the doctor told you at your last appointment.” The goal is to be caring but not condescending, being careful never to attempt to parent your mother and father.
  • While seeing and talking with the grandchildren on Zoom is an easy option to boost an older adult’s mood, make sure to provide for some one-on-one time to talk without children.
  • Take notice of what’s going on in the background of your video chats for any further clues, such as whether or not the house looks tidy and well maintained, as well as personal hygiene – disheveled, unkempt hair, for example.
  •  Take into consideration whether substance abuse may be a factor. A rise in alcohol consumption during the pandemic is occurring in individuals of all ages, and may be very harmful if there are potential interactions with medications a senior loved one is taking.

If you suspect elderly depression or any other mental health issues in your loved one, make sure to contact the doctor immediately. Since you are most familiar with the senior, you may be in a position to pick up on cues that the medical team misses during routine appointments, and it’s vital to make your concerns known.

If you have any concerns, contact At Home Independent Living, the leading provider of home health care in Syracuse, NY and surrounding areas, for further assistance. We are able to serve as your eyes and ears when you’re not able to be there in person, and offer a variety of customized services to improve socialization and quality of life at home. Reach out to us at (315)579-HOME (4663) for additional information.