Depression is not biased. It impacts all ages, races, and cultures. Unfortunately, depression in older adults is often overlooked and sometimes explained away by physical ailments or general symptoms of ‘getting older’ by others.
Sometimes older adults are hesitant to talk about the way that they are feeling with others due to fear of looking weak or feeling like a burden. If you know an older adult that may have depression, here are three ways to be helpful.
Listen to stories of loss.
Loss is a common theme in the lives of older people. We think of the loss of other loved ones or friends which can have devastating impacts on support systems. Loss often makes older people fearful of their own death or scared in general of what the future holds for them. Listen to them and provide a space to share memories about those important people.
Loss can also be a factor in terms of losing abilities. For someone who was always active to have a knee replacement or have a stroke, it can be hard to mourn that loss of functioning and find ways to blend hope with realistic expectations. It can be helpful to remind them of their strengths that they do have and that even though they can’t garden the whole afternoon like they used to, they can take breaks and still enjoy the activity.
Engage socially and connect.
Loss of others and loss of functioning level can also increase isolation in the older population. Although, we have so many ways to connect with others through the phone and internet, having face to face conversations is so valuable. Help older adults connect with others through community events, churches, and local parks/recreation centers.
Help them learn a new skill. Sometimes even interacting with their pet or visiting a friend with a pet can help reconnect to old memories and improve overall mood. Laugh together. Humor helps us connect and refocus on joy even in difficult times.
Move and Get Outside.
When mobility is limited, moving can feel like an enormous feat, but studies show that even minimal movements such as going for a short walk can reduce mental health symptoms. Movement will look different for everyone. Some older adults may be able to engage in aerobic classes or yoga while other older adults may be more limited to simple stretches within their home.
Celebrate whatever movement looks like for them. Sitting outside together on the porch while drinking morning coffee is another great way to pair socializing with getting that Vitamin D.
Do you know an older adult with depression or are you an older adult who is thinking that you have depression and would like additional support? You are not alone.
Let our Therapist Renee Pugh help! Schedule an appointment today