Are you older, or do you have an older love one or friend that you believe is suffering from depression.  Assisting this age group with strategies to mitigate for the depressive symptoms would be beneficial. Major depressive disorder, or major depression, is characterized by a combination of symptoms that interfere with a person’s ability to work, sleep, study, eat, and enjoy once-pleasurable activities (www.nimh.nih.gov, 2014).

Episodes of depression often follow stressful events such as marital problems or the death of a loved one. The exact causes of depression still are not clear. What we do know is that both genetics and a stressful environment, or life situation, contribute to its cause or sudden onset.

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Educate about the prevalence for reasons specific to elderly persons.

Over 1,300 community adults 60 years of age or older were screened for depressive symptomatology. Of the 27% reporting depressive symptoms, 19% were diagnosed as suffering mild dysphoria, 4% symptomatic depression, 2% dysthymia, 1.2% a mixed depressive and anxiety syndrome, and 0.8% major depression.  This age group is more likely to report negative life events and poor social relations, claims Charles Popov, Founder of Resiliency BHS and Geographia. Older people are at risk for depression, are underserved by the mental health profession, and have the highest rates of suicide in the country. But many seniors are resistant to treatment because they don’t want to burden their families, or equate depression with weakness or even death.  

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Educate to recognize they may be suffering with depression.

Some of the signs and symptoms according to the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5, include the following:

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Processing their thoughts and feelings is helpful to reduce depression.

Now, more than ever, Charles Popov believes the stigma attached to seeking out a mental health specialist is less and not existent with thinking persons and the larger society.  While I was in Iraq and quite depressed, I sought out a counselor myself, and continued this practice when I returned. Basic talk therapy can work wonders. Make a referral for therapy at www.resiliencybhis.net

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Normalize that given their specific circumstances, certain criteria of depression may be present.

When it is obvious that certain life events may have evoked depression, one is relieved of possible guilt about being depressed, possible embarrassment for not being “stronger”, and assists the person with a feeling of hope to take possible actions for getting better.

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Don’t impose your terminology (i.e. clinical depression). 

“For the person who says, ‘No, I am not depressed,’ I listen closely to what has changed in their life.   For example, if a client says she can’t sleep, I use that as an opportunity to discuss ideas about how to sleep better or longer. If they say ‘I haven’t been eating the same”, this is a great opportunity to talk with them about the role of nutrition.  Diet has largely been ignored by researchers who are scientifically investigating the causes of happiness; still, some research has taken place that proves the foods we consume DO play an important role in our well-being. In a joint study conducted by researchers from Dartmouth College in New Hampshire and the University of Warwick in Britain, the eating habits of 80,000 people in England, Scotland, and Ireland were evaluated.  The investigators found that the happiness and well-being increased with the amount of vegetables and fruits eaten every day and that well-being peaked among those who consumed seven serving a day. A serving was defined as 2.8 ounces. Although most government health departments recommend eating 5 servings a day of fruits and vegetables to promote physical health and to prevent cancer and heart disease, additional servings are necessary to support emotional well-being (D. G Blanchflower, A. J. Oswald, and S. Stewart-Brown, “Is Psychological Well-Being Linked to the Consumption of Fruits and Vegetables?”, Social indicators Research October 2012).  Juice Plus Capsules provide 30 phytonutrients per day at $2.49 cent per day.  Check out this link for a real eye opener: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L27XDeG4mmw  If you are interested in this excellent product (I take it every day myself along with at least 12 servings of fruit and vegetables to boot.  However, some days, if I don’t get the latter, I’m covered), go to my website (www.resiliencybhs.net and click on the Juice Plus link to order). 

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Help them understand that depression is an illness.  As such , medication, nutrition, exercise, therapy, etc., can help them to feel better. Family members should be aware of the disability that depression can cause and should avoid making depressed parents or relatives feel guilty by telling them to get out more or pull themselves up by the bootstraps.  However, if one is able to get up and move, a short exercise routine, provides the brain with more oxygen and increasing the elasticity and growth patterns of the brain. An interesting fact about depression and anxiety is that being depressed for a period of time physically alters your neural pathways, claims Charles Joseph Popov. The longer you stay in a depressive state, the more hardwired your responses and thought processes become. By exercising, you actually stimulate growth and new connections, meaning it will be easier for you to train your brain to avoid unhealthy thought patterns.  Regular exercise helps ease depression in a number of ways, to include: Releasing feel-good brain chemicals that may ease depression (neurotransmitters, endorphins and endocannabinoids) Reducing immune system chemicals that can worsen depression.

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Don’t take over their lives. 

Allow the older person to have a sense of independence and control over their lives. You may have heard the statistic that elderly people who own a house plant tend to live longer. This is not entirely accurate. The truism comes from a classic 1976 study by E.J. Langer and J. Rodin in which 91 nursing home residents were each a given a plant. These residents were broken up into two groups: In one group, the elderly residents were given the decision-making responsibilities for caring for a house plant; in the other group, the responsibility was delegated to the nursing home staff. The researchers’ results suggest that it is this increased personal responsibility and decision-making that led to a longer life, rather than owning a house plant in and of itself.

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Help them seek out medical attention

Normalize for this and make it okay for them to reach out to their physician for help.  Medications could prove helpful, however, by implementing the strategies I have spoken about in the above, depressive symptomology can be reduced and a sense of happiness and well-being restored.

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