How to Help Someone With Depression
Know the warning signs of an older adult's depression
Older adults often face stressful situations, including chronic illness, financial problems, and loss of independence. Add that to physical and emotional isolation, and you've got a recipe for depression.
But there's a big difference between situational unhappiness and clinical depression. Feelings of sadness and anger are natural after a catastrophic event like a heart attack or the death of a loved one, but when those feelings linger for months on end and prevent an older adult from enjoying life at all, it's more than a normal reaction to grief.
Here are some practical suggestions for helping someone with depression.
Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between depression and just a case of the blues. Depression is more than just feeling sad or "down." Depression affects a person's thinking, emotions, behavior, and physical health. A depressed person may feel empty inside, or may no longer enjoy activities she once loved. She may complain of aches and pains that can't be explained or treated. When someone has several of these symptoms for weeks or months, it's likely that she's clinically depressed.
If you think someone has a case of depression, it's a good idea to familiarize yourself with the warning signs. And it's also helpful to know what specific indicators to look for:
Lack of interest in personal appearance. One of the most obvious signs of depression in older adults is when they stop caring about their personal appearance. If the person you're caring for used to take great pride in her looks but no longer bothers with makeup, she may be feeling depressed.
Increased complaints about aches and pains. Depression can actually amplify physical pain, turning minor irritations into severe discomfort. If your once-stoic friend or relative won't stop complaining about her sore feet, she may be suffering from more than just bunions.
Social withdrawal. Depressed older adults tend to push other people away -- especially those they love the most. If the person you're caring for suddenly starts making excuses not to see you or other family members or friends, it's worth checking into what's really going on.