I think my elderly parent is depressed?

5 Ways to help a senior with depression

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Depression is an issue that families don’t like to discuss. Depression in seniors mostly goes unnoticed the CDC says that 13.5% of people receiving home health care and 11.5% of those hospitalized suffer from depression. Many more people suffer in silence or it goes unnoticed for weeks or months. With the elderly depression may last longer and is usually in combination with other health issues. We see with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other neurological issues can cause depression. It is not just the diagnosis but the disease itself that can cause these changes.

Symptoms to look out for are:

         sleep pattern changes (insomnia or excessive sleeping)

         Eating changes (eating too much or not at all)


         Lack of interest in normal activities

         Complaining of pain with no actual cause

         Being irritable

         Substance abuse


        Seeking help

       Demanding behavior

       Feelings of hopelessness

       Persistent sadness or anxiety


Sometimes these behaviors are ways of trying to get help but your loved one might not understand or know how to correctly express their feelings. Families will often overlook some of these symptoms as their loved one just being “grumpy” or “set in their ways”. Depression can have many causes the loss of a loved one, the loss of the ability to do activities that were part of their normal life, or from an underlying medical issue. The cause of the depression can be different things but always see a medical professional to rule out other illnesses.

What can we do about depression in the elderly?

First thing to do is look at what is different. Make a list of the changes you see in your loved one. This list is good so that you can see changes and when you speak to a medical professional you won’t miss anything. Details can be very important always keeping track of behaviors and symptoms can really help a physician or therapist. Try talking to your loved one first and see what the cause of their sadness may be. A conversation may be what is needed for your loved one to open about whatever is bothering them. Sitting down talking to your loved one can also help decide if they are suffering from general sadness because of a life event or a more serious issue.  Take the first chance and get in for a general checkup to see if it is a medical issue. First explain to the doctor your position and concerns and take your list so that nothing is missed. Ask the physician if they can refer your loved one to a therapist or counselor if more treatment is necessary. Always consult with all your loved one doctors if the mental health professional recommends medication. The consultation will help to stop adverse drug interactions. Not all medical practitioners have the same level of experience with the elderly or know what other medications or conditions are involved with their care.

  1.      See the doctor to rule out other illnesses
  2.     See a mental health professional and try to find a support group of peers that may be going through the same issues. These options can give your loved one someone to talk to and help them get advice and coping tools to help with their depression.
  3.  Try to get your loved one involved into more social activities meeting with groups for breakfast, bingo at a community center, senior groups at a church can all be good social interactions.
  4.  Get your loved one to move more and exercise by taking a walk, chair yoga, or even water aerobics can be good low impact options for exercise.
  5.   Talk to your loved one don’t get too wrapped up in doctors and therapy just take the time to be there for them. Hear what concerns they have. Is it being alone? Is it a fear of death? Are they stressed from not being as capable as they used to be? Talk and listen to what they are saying this may be the turning point to put them back on track. It’s going to be a group effort and there are things you can do and things you can’t do but taking the time to talk can make your loved one’s life better.


These are some things to look for and some suggestions on how to help. Dealing with depression is never easy or simple. Take the time to be there for your loved one. Letting your loved one know that you care may be the one thing that keeps them going.