Is there treatment for elderly depression?

3 answers | Last updated: Sep 14, 2017
Anne-2 asked...

My mother is approaching 70 and is depressed, sickly and extremely frail (she weighs less than six stone). What can I do to help her? I feel that if she put more weight on she wouldn't be so prone to infections or illness but she is adamant that she isn't hungry even though she eats like a bird. For example, all the dinner plates at her house have been packed away and she only eats off a side plate. She does no excersise, has a limited social life and is in the process of completely reinventing the past (and it is all terrible), she seems to think that she has had a wasted life - is this normal or is there something I can do to help her to enjoy her final years? I live five hours away on the train and feel that her quality of life would be much better if I was in the same town, but am unable to live there due to my own life situation so I am racked by guilt as well. What can I do?

Expert Answers

It's so heartbreaking to watch someone struggle with depression…and it's far worse when you feel powerless to help. First off, I have to say that you should NOT feel guilty about living your own life. And you shouldn't feel that you're responsible for your mother's happiness or lack thereof. I know that's much easier said than done, but please stop beating yourself up.

That said, your mother does sound very depressed. Getting out of the house for fresh air, exercise, and social activities with others are all helpful, but when someone's depressed, it's sometimes nearly impossible to get the energy of activation needed to do those things.

What I'd suggest is sitting down with your mother and asking her what she thinks would help. She might not have any answers for you -- depressed people often feel completely hopeless -- but it's a good place to start. Is there any way she'd be receptive to trying antidepressant medication, talk therapy, or both? I know you live far away, but could you possible arrange to go with her to see her doctor? It might be difficult for her to broach the subject of seeking help, and having you with her might make it easier.

I wish you both the best of luck. Hang in there, and be sure to take care of yourself, too. Caring for a depressed person can seriously zap your energy, even if you are five hours away.

Community Answers

Shortnsweet answered... mother is 78 and suffering from depression too. Partly because she lives far away from all her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. With some coaching she visited her doctor and mentioned the depression and he prescribed Prosac. It's been a Godsend. She's no longer wallowing in self pity...yes, she still is lonely but it's not overwhelingly depressing to her any longer.

It has helped that I call her 3 or 4 times a week now and send her mail weekly. She feels more in touch with family and has something to look forward to.

Good luck in finding the right solution for your Mom. There is help.

Helenjay brown/faceb answered...

I'm glad things are getting better. As a person who has taken anti-depressents for many years, I know first-hand that one may work for a while, or for a long while, then not work as well. You and she may see a change for the better on Prozac now, but watch for symptoms of less effectiveness as time goes on. There are so many anti-depressants on the market currently that an effective replacement for Prozac can be found. Of course, starting any new anti-d. requires the time to test the medicine and the dosage, which is not good for the symptoms of depression; as if one doesn't work, then its another six weeks to try another. Also, in the USA if a person is over 65 years(I am 69) it is difficult to find a psychiatrist who will take a client who is on Medicaid--and I have found that as good as family physicians are in many instances, they may not be as knowledgable about the chemical nuances of antidepressants, name brand and generic. It has been six years since I have actually talked to a psychiatrist face-to-face, and I have not felt as well emotionally for about five of those years and I'm hopeful that something will work out soon medically.