Depression is a widespread problem in North America and older people are at higher risk. But seniors often tend to resist proper diagnosis and treatment because they don’t wish to “burden” their families or because the thought of it makes them feel vulnerable or weak.
If you’ve got a family member, friend, or loved one who is experiencing depression, you can use these five strategies to offer them help during this difficult time.
1. Don’t Ignore the Signs
Depression isn’t just caused by a change in weather or additional stress. If you notice signs such as no appetite, lost interest in activities, and social isolation for a period longer than two weeks, be aware that these signs could be pointing to something more serious than just a change in mood.
2. Talk it Out
If your loved one spends a lot of time alone, it’s more important than ever to make regular check-ins to let them express themselves and how they feel about all the changes in their life. If for example, they can no longer drive or have moved to a smaller home or caregiving facility, it’s much easier for them to cope with these changes if they can openly express how they feel. Make time to hear them out, honor their emotions, and offer direct comfort.
3. Give Your Loved Ones Space
Try to make sure that your loved one knows you are there to support them, but avoid doing things for them that they can easily do on their own. Although you may just want to ease the pain, this can make things harder for a depressed individual as it reinforces their negative perceptions that they are not worthy individuals.
4. Schedule Regular Social Activities
Seniors often spend a lot of time alone, which can worsen their depression. Try to schedule regular social activities with visits from friends and family and trips to the grocery store or library. Although a depressed senior may decline these invitations, try to encourage them to join in and mix with others while respecting their boundaries.
5. Plan and Prepare Healthy Meals
A healthy diet goes a long way in easing depression. Ensure your loved one is eating enough fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and protein. If they need help with food preparation, make sure they are getting the support they need.