Treating Depression in Older Adults

If your older loved one receives a diagnosis of depression, you’ve already made a significant step to support their mental health. Many seniors who are having depressive symptoms go undiagnosed because they don’t report how they are feeling to their family members, friends, or physicians. So, getting that diagnosis is already half of the battle to feeling more like themselves.

Untreated depression not only makes life more challenging, but symptoms of depression can often lead to incorrect diagnoses of cognitive decline. For example, is Mom having trouble remembering her grandchild’s name because of dementia or because of brain fog that often accompanies untreated depression?

Treating depression in older adults typically begins in the doctor’s office, but complementary habits and lifestyle changes can go a long way in supporting their mental health recovery as well. Here’s what you need to know as a family member or caregiver.

Medical Treatment

While not all seniors need prescription medications to manage their depression symptoms, it is best to begin in the physician’s office. During a depression screening, the doctor will ask your loved one questions that can give insight into how they are really feeling, as well as how their depression is affecting their daily life. Encourage your loved one to be honest during the screening and consider stepping out of the office so they can have the privacy to answer truthfully without you there.

Your loved one’s physician might prescribe a medication that can help to relieve symptoms of depression. Be sure your loved one knows how to add this medication to their daily regimen and when picking up the prescription, talk to the pharmacist so you understand how this new medicine might interact with others they are taking.

Finally, help your loved one keep tabs on how they are feeling as the medication starts to take effect. While they might not notice major changes for weeks, if they are still feeling significantly depressed after a few months, it is time to revisit the doctor to share that feedback. Depression medications take a bit of time to find the right amount for the right person, so encourage your loved one to stick with them.

Complementary Habits and Lifestyle Changes

There are also some habits and lifestyle changes that can bolster your loved one’s mental health, in addition to their physician recommendations. Here are a few to consider:

  • Encourage a consistent bedtime routine. Effective sleep can help alleviate symptoms of depression. When possible, skip naps in the day and focus on creating a calming bedtime routine.
  • Moving the body. Your loved one doesn’t have to start a major exercise program in order to get the benefits of endorphins. Instead, encourage them to take a daily walk or to participate in a favorite exercise program at home or at the senior center in their town.
  • Drink water and eat healthy foods. Skipping meals and only drinking coffee the majority of the day is guaranteed to wear down physical and mental health. Encourage your loved one to hydrate throughout the day and to eat foods that are both delicious and nutritious.
  • Connecting with others. Seniors who are socially isolated are at an increased risk for depression. Help your loved one schedule times throughout the week to connect with peers through events at the senior center, coffee dates at the diner, or fellowship groups at church.

Next Steps

Living at home alone becomes more difficult to manage when depression enters the picture. An in-home caregiver can help to support your loved one’s mental and physical health by ensuring they are eating nourishing food, keeping up with their physical hygiene, connecting with others, and establishing healthy sleep routines. 

Let us be a part of your loved one’s mental health plan. Contact us today to schedule an assessment.

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