Sunday, February 23, 2014

How to Help the Elderly With Depression

As our parents age, we watch them lose their health, their friends and abilities. We may wonder or think that our aging parents or an elderly friend may be depressed but you may not be sure and if they were depressed, what would you do?

After writing several articles and a book on depression in the elderly, I wanted to bring this very important issue out into the light. To often are our senior adults not diagnosed when depression occurs, let alone corrective measures taken.

The following will give you the key facts and ideas on ways to identify the possible causes and treatments of depression, so your aging parent can again live a quality life.

Risk Factors for Depression in the Elderly:

Being female
Having a family history of depression
Being unmarried, especially widowed
Lack of supportive social network - family, friends, caregivers
Stressful life events - such as moving, loss of someone, etc.
Physical conditions like; stroke, hypertension, diabetes, cancer, and dementia
Certain medicines or combinations of medications
Fear of death
Damage to body image. This can be an actual physical loss such as a foot due to diabetes or loss of eye sight. But often it is the personal view of not being able to get around easily anymore, hand shaking making doing things difficult, loss of strength, loss of being perceived as attractive or handsome. Changes in skin, hair color, loss of teeth, loss of hearing, loss of some memory or conversational skill.
Past suicide attempt
Substance abuse
Previous history of depression
Living alone
Social isolation
Lack of interest in personal care (skipping meals, forgetting medications, neglecting personal hygiene)

Possible Causes of Depression:

Life changes, such as death of a spouse, moving from their home to another place, etc.
Being alone and without a strong support system
Medical problems
Losses: loss of independence, loss of mobility, health, career, can no longer do a hobby once enjoyed or other interest.
Loneliness and isolation from dwindling social circle due to deaths or relocations.
Decrease mobility due to illness or loss of driving privileges.
Reduced sense of purpose - a person still needs to feel that they are contributing and needed.
Health problems such as illness or disability, chronic and severe pain, cognitive decline, damage to the body image due to surgery or disease.
Fears - fear of death or dying, anxiety over financial problems (real or perceived) or health issues.
Medications can trigger or exacerbate depression.
Death of a long term spouse or partner is severely traumatic.
Frustration with memory loss
Changes within the family - it could be the death of a sister or brother, a child, an adult child, etc.
Moving to a new home and not adapting to it.
Drugs and substance abuse - this is more of problem than most people realize.
Frequent stomachaches or headaches.
Tired and sluggish - tired of feeling like this.

Treatment for Depression in the Elderly:

Self-help Options May Include (a family member, friend or caregiver can help):

o Getting out into the world - Try not to stay cooped up at home all day. Go to the park, take a trip to the hairdresser, or have lunch with a friend.
o Connecting to others - Limit the time you're alone. If you can't get out to socialize, invite loved ones to visit you, or keep in touch over the phone or email.
o Participating in activities you enjoy - Pursue whatever hobbies or pastimes bring or used to bring you joy.
o Volunteering your time - Helping others is one of the best ways to feel better about yourself and regain perspective.
o Taking care of a pet - Get a pet to keep you company.
o Learning a new skill - Pick something that you've always wanted to learn, or that sparks your imagination and creativity.
o Enjoying jokes and stories - Laughter provides a mood boost, so swap humorous stories and jokes with your loved ones, watch a comedy, or read a funny book.
o Maintaining a healthy diet - Avoid eating too much sugar and junk food. Choose healthy foods that provide nourishment and energy, and take a daily multivitamin.
o Exercising - Even if you're ill, frail, or disabled, there are many safe exercises you can do to build your strength and boost your mood-even from a chair or wheelchair
o Emotional support with patience and compassion. Don't criticize feelings that are expressed.
o Someone to go to doctor appointment with and to help advocate.
o Someone to make sure appointments are kept, that medications are taken, that doctor's recommendations are followed and that a healthy diet is consumed.

Traditional Medical Treatment Options (not all inclusive and seek professional advice):

* Prescription medications, such as SSRIs
* Cognitive Counseling
* Support Groups
* Supportive Counseling; includes religious and peer counseling
* Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)

Natural Treatment Options (not all inclusive and seek professional advice):

- St. John's Wart - cannot be taken with anti-depressants
- 5-HTP - cannot be taken with anti-depressants
- SAMe - can be taken alone or with anti-depressants to lower the dosage required.
- Increase Omega-3 in diet
- Take a quality multi-vitamin
- Self-talk programs that are listened to in the back ground and can be used to help in a variety of areas beside depression. They help you 'talk' to yourself in a more positive manner. You can even listen to them while you sleep.
- Keep a Mood Diary and look at what and when you have moments of depression or symptoms of sadness and why.
- Magnetic Therapy
- Acupuncture
- Aroma Therapy
- Color Therapy
- Homeopathy
- Health Touch and Therapeutic Touch
- Different types of Energy Medicine

If you suspect your loved one is depressed and would benefit from some form of treatment, see a professional to evaluate the severity of the depression and to make sure it is depression and not a medical reason causing depression and to determine which is the best form of treatment. There are several senior adult information websites that can give you some information but The Practical Expert is the only coaching specialist on elderly parent issues. Getting some assistance, from whatever professional source, can make the process of dealing with a depressed elderly person easier, less time consuming and be more likely to bring about a positive outcome.

Depression in the elderly is severely under diagnosed and useful information is not that readily available to help caregivers and family members in order to be helpful. That has now changed, just because you have read this article, you can now help a senior adult live a fuller life.

(As with all health products and making any changes to your usual health care regiment, check with your doctor first. Natural supplement products and statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The provided information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.)

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