Common among all seniors are the numerous changes that aging brings to daily life. The loss of loved ones, retirement from a career, and isolation due to a lack of mobility add difficulties. Each of these factors can lead to depression. It’s not a matter of mood, it’s a serious disease that can impact the senior’s energy levels, sleep habits, appetite, and social engagement.
While many say that depression is typical for aging people, the fact is that it doesn’t have to be accepted as the norm. Steps can be taken to address the symptoms of depression but first they must be recognized as such. Sadness, fatigue, loss of interest in hobbies and self-worth in general, social withdrawal and fixation on death are all red flags and should be taken very seriously as symptoms of depression. Other signs may include an increased use of drugs and/or alcohol.
One would assume that it would be easy to recognize when a senior is slipping into depression. However, many clinically depressed seniors will say they don’t feel sad. They’ve relegated the lack of energy and motivation to “age.” Moreover, many seniors may be hesitant to complain in the first place. They may be reluctant to talk about their feelings or ask for help. It is important to tell them that depression is not a weakness. It is not a character flaw. Depression can strike any person at any age, without regard to past accomplishments or history.
A simple first step in helping a senior to avoid depression is to make sure s/he eats a balanced diet. Avoid sugary foods and eat fruit and vegetables. Make sure they take multivitamins as well to keep the body on a healthy path. In addition, encourage seniors to get up and go. Physical activity is key to maintaining flexibility, stamina, and making blood flow. Getting involved in groups or community efforts of interest and being outside with others will do more for a senior on any day than staying home with a bowl of ice cream and the television. Keep that as a reward for the end of the day, after an apple, a few glasses of water, and a 45 minute walk.
It is advisable to seek professional help as well. If nothing seems to be working, and a senior consistently falls into the same cycle of low energy, bad moods, and lack of interest, seek out a doctor or at the very least, community support groups. The road ahead of a senior doesn’t necessarily have to be a darkened tunnel with no end. Rather, it can be a brightly lit path surrounded by the support of others. Take advantage of National Depression Screening Day tomorrow by gathering information and knowledge so you can help to make sure our beloved seniors are the healthiest they can be.
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