Geriatric depression affects more than six million adults aged sixty-five and older, and many cases commonly go overlooked by those closest to them. Professionals describe this form of depression as a mental and emotional condition characterized by feelings of severe despondency and dejection, often accompanied by a lack of energy, appetite, and sleep. Feelings of isolation from lack of visiting friends and family can cause or worsen symptoms of this condition, so pay close attention to your loved one to determine if close friends and relatives should stop by more often to visit and spend time. Look for the following signs in your parent:
Loss of a loved one – Aging adults are commonly diagnosed with depression after the loss of a loved one, particularly a spouse. Aging adults have a much higher risk of depression in mourning than those at a younger age. If your parent or loved one recently lost a close friend or relative, encourage family and friends to visit the elderly care community as often as possible.
Irritability – Most aging adults with geriatric depression experience sudden mood swings with frustration and crankiness. Your loved one may anger easily with simple tasks and small things that didn’t trigger irritability before moving into their new home. You can find ways to ease their irritability, such as taking a walk to release nervous energy.
Loss of self-interest – Another common indictor of geriatric depression is a loss of self-interest. This symptom can often manifest as a loss of pride in appearance that can even lead to a decline in normal grooming habits, including bathing. If your parent begins behaving in this manner, you should visit more often and target activities toward better grooming. Many communities have an on-site salon where you can take your parent for a haircut or a manicure. You can also use the visit as an opportunity to get your loved one out of the community for a while with a trip to a day spa or a barber shop for a fresh shave for male loved ones.
Halting medical regimens – Seniors displaying signs of geriatric depression may also try to stop adhering to their medication schedules. Senior communities typically have a qualified staff member handle administering medications; however, the community may contact you if your loved one resists or if the community suspects that they haven’t taken the medication when distributed. In addition to issues with medications, your loved one may also try to stray from prescribed dietary restrictions as well. Sudden changes in medication or diet, especially for those who suffer from diabetes and other chronic diseases, can prove harmful or even fatal to your loved one. If you hear from the community regarding your loved one’s medication regimen or diet, try to spend more time with them and encourage them to adhere to their doctor’s orders. You may also want to learn more about the community’s medication management program and confirm that the staff member watches your loved one take their meds instead of simply distributing them.
Social withdrawal – One of the most common indicators of geriatric depression is social isolation. Aging adults with depression may stop interacting with friends, family, and loved ones. Taking a loner mentality, your parent may begin to make excuses on why they can’t join social interactions. Encourage your loved one to participate in community events, focusing on activities they enjoy. You can even speak with the community event coordinator about upcoming events and activities your parent can look forward to.
Lack of interest in hobbies – Those suffering from geriatric depression can also lose interest in their passions. For example, hobbies and activities they previously enjoyed, such as fishing, knitting, or painting, don’t spark their interest anymore. Losing interest in activities also means your aging parent could be experiencing fatigue or loss of energy throughout the day and irregular sleeping patterns. Try to spark their interest again with words of encouragement and by spending some time accompanying them. Make the hobby something that you can do together.
Transitioning your aging parent or loved one to their new home can lead to difficult emotions such as geriatric depression. If they begin to display any of the aforementioned symptoms, try to spend more time with them at their new home, and work closely with the community caregivers to create an environment where your loved one can settle and begin to find happiness. If these symptoms quickly worsen or don’t improve, don’t hesitate to contact your loved one’s physician or even a counselor available through the community.