It may be hard to know what to do when elderly parents change their behavior, or seem to be having difficulty dealing with emotional situations or illnesses associated with aging. There are, however, ways of helping aging parents when they are feeling down. Keeping in touch, watching for warning signs and providing support and encouragement are all methods of helping elderly parents dealing with depression.
Helping Elderly Parents: Stay in Touch
Social interaction is an important part of help for depression. As people grow older, their social connections may wane, as friends may become ill or pass away and younger family members move away. Keeping in touch is an important part of helping aging parents with depression symptoms. This type of help with depression allows them to feel connected. In addition, you can also monitor their behavior and feelings for new or worsening depression symptoms.
Help for Depression: Encourage Them to Seek Help
Unfortunately, elderly people are less likely to seek treatment for depression symptoms because of the stigma associated with this and other mental health issues. A vital part of helping aging parents with depression is encouraging them to seek professional help. In order to improve their odds of getting the right treatment, be sure to offer nonjudgmental support.
Helping Aging Parents: Watch for Danger Signs
Depression can be harder to diagnose in older populations, and some people even think that itâ€™s a normal part of the aging process. However, depression is not normal at any stage of life. Help your parents seek help with depression if they exhibit:
- Depressed mood, manifested as withdrawal or irritability
- Loss of interest in once-enjoyed activities
- Reduced participation in their normal activities, such as attending religious services
- Weight loss.
Helping Elderly Parents: Suicide Risk
The National Institute of Mental Health reports an overall higher risk of suicide in people over the age of 65; this risk increases further in people with depression. If your parent is receiving help for depression, the following behaviors may be warning signs of suicidal or self-destructive thoughts or desires:
- Attempting to say goodbye to loved ones
- Being preoccupied with death
- Expressing feelings of being a burden to the family
- Hoarding medication
- Settling financial affairs.
If your parent shows any of these behaviors, remove any weapons and potential hazards from the home and monitor medication consumption carefully. Contact your parentÃ•s doctor or psychotherapist for help with depression, as he can provide support or change medication. Recognizing these signs is an important part of helping elderly parents manage difficult emotions and stay safe and healthy.
Mayo Clinic Staff. (n.d.). Aging parents: 5 warning signs of health problems. retrieved May 20, 21010, from the Mayo clinic website: www.mayoclinic.com/health/aging-parents/ha00082.
National Alliance on Mental Illness Staff. (n.d.). Depression in older persons fact sheet. Retrieved May 20, 2010, from the National Alliance on Mental Illness website: www.naminh.org/NAMI-Fact-Sheet-Depression-Elders.pdf.
National Institute of Mental Health Staff. (n.d.). Older adults: Depression and suicide facts (fact sheet). Retrieved May 19, 2010, from the National Institute of Mental Health website: www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/older-adults-depression-and-suicide-facts-fact-sheet/index.shtml#treatments.
Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE) Staff. (n.d.). Elderly depression. Retrieved May 20, 2010, from the SAVE website: www.save.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=home.viewpage&page_id=a82dfca2-afe8-3478-1a4e1f9445d46407.