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One in five older people living in the community, and two in five living in care homes, are affected by depression (ibtimes.co.uk, 2015). It’s an intense sadness that continues for weeks or months, which affects the way you think and behave in your daily life.
Depression in the elderly be triggered through various situations, for example:
- Bereavement- feeling a new sense of loneliness.
Many older people stay with their partners for their whole life, which means losing their ‘other half’ would have devastating effects on their well-being. This is the same for any close family members and friends.
- Long-term illness- feeling useless and in pain.
A constant pain leaves the body feeling worn out, affecting your mood and motivation. Although medicines may not cure the long-term illness, there are some that can help ease the pain and make the situation more bearable.
- Financial strains- questioning if they can still support themselves.
Some change in circumstances can raise alarm bells to the possibility of poverty. This can be through losing a job or partner, or the anxiety of have to survive off a small pension. It can make someone hide in their own bubble, like burying their heads in the sand, as they feel they cannot cope. There is support in place, such as the attendance allowance, but many are unaware what is available to them.
- Discrimination- being made to feel less important than others.
Having to deal with discrimination continuously can damage a person’s character. It makes people go into themselves and lose all confidence.
A mixture of these situations can all contribute to the depression of your loved one and have knock on affects to their health. This is why it's important to keep an eye out for the symptoms:
- Sadness or being irritated most of the time
- Loss of interest
- Low self-esteem
- Feeling isolated, bored and aimless
- Sleep disturbance
- Problems remembering, concentrating or making simple decisions
- Tiredness or loss of energy- slowed movement and speech
- Change in eating patterns- too much or too little
- Neglecting personal care
It is important to remember that depression is not a sign of weakness.
Being aware of these symptoms can help diagnose someone earlier and therefore they can get the help they need sooner. However, some symptoms can actually indicate a different health problem. For example, loss of appetite or poor sleep can be caused by thyroid problems or heart disease.
The best thing to do is talk to your GP. Older people may have been brought up to only visit the doctor if there is something physically wrong with them. Since depression is a psychological issue they may be reluctant to go as it could be seen as a waste of the doctors’ time. It is not, depression can be treated like any other illness.
The doctor can prescribe certain anti-depressant medication and/or therapy. Psychotherapy talks through your past to see if or how it is connected to the depression. Cognitive behavioural therapy helps you think in more realistic ways that make you feel better.
Other ways to combat depression is to be more active and sociable. Sitting at home alone can make you feel worse, as it gives you time to think and mull things over. Getting out and about in the community will help keep your mind off things and encourages social interaction.
Try and stay connected with family and friends. This will reduce feelings of isolation, and reminds you of the people that are there for your support. Patience and understanding is more helpful than trying to cheer someone up, so talk through your feelings.
If you’re worried your loved one could be suffering from depression and need someone to care for them, Home Instead Senior Care can help. We offer services that include companionship, home help, and personal care.
From our office in Egham, Home Instead Senior Care are really proud to be able to provide care and help for Seniors and rewarding careers for their CAREGivers all across Windsor, Egham and Staines!