Carers Confidential: How to Spot the Signs of Depression in an Elderly Person

Carers Confidential is our regular blog post aiming to offer advice, information and support to those of us in the care industry. It is specifically for carers, by carers.

Depression is a common mental health condition that can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, or background. However, older people are more likely to experience depression due to a variety of factors related to aging. In this article, we’ll explore why older people are more susceptible to depression, the signs of depression to look out for in older adults, and ways to support them.

Loss of loved ones, retirement, and health problems are just a few of the many reasons why older people may experience depression. Aging also brings a sense of loss of purpose, reduced mobility, and feelings of loneliness and isolation. These changes can be overwhelming for older adults, leading to feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a lack of motivation.

It’s important to recognize the signs of depression in older adults, especially if you don’t get to see them often. Signs of depression in older adults may include fatigue, loss of interest in usual activities, weight loss or not eating as much, changes in sleep patterns, anxiety and worries, social withdrawal, and neglecting personal appearance and hygiene. These signs may be subtle, and it may be helpful to ask your loved one about their daily activities to get a better sense of their emotional state.

If you notice any of these signs, it’s important to encourage your loved one to seek professional help. Depression is a treatable condition, and there are many resources available to support older adults. In addition to professional help, there are also steps that you can take to support your loved one, such as planning and preparing regular healthy meals, sticking to a routine, encouraging talking about worries, and helping your loved one stay connected with their community.

Social isolation can be a significant risk factor for depression in older adults. Therefore, it’s important to encourage your loved one to stay connected with others. If your loved one has withdrawn from social activities, taking small steps to get back into it can be helpful. Perhaps visitors can help, or spending time once a week at a local café, or volunteering for something in the community.

Neglecting personal appearance and hygiene can also be a sign of depression in older adults. It may be helpful to discuss with your loved one if there are any reasons for this neglect other than depression, such as fear of falling. Adapting the bathroom to their needs can help them feel more comfortable and independent.

Keeping in touch regularly with your loved one can also help you understand any changes in their behaviour. If you’re unable to care for your loved one due to other responsibilities, there’s no shame in reaching out for additional help. Companion care services can provide your loved one with the support they need to maintain their independence and decrease the risk of depression and loneliness.

In conclusion, depression is a treatable condition that affects many older adults. It’s essential to recognize the signs of depression in older adults and encourage them to seek professional help. Supporting your loved one through small steps, such as planning and preparing regular healthy meals, sticking to a routine, and staying connected with their community, can also be helpful. By being aware of the signs of depression and taking action, you can help your loved one maintain their emotional well-being as they age.

For more information about this subject please visit National Institute of Mental Health – Depression