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Senior Health & Wellness | October 28, 2013 | By Jonita Dixon

How to Manage Depression in the Elderly

How to Manage Depression in the ElderlyAlthough depression is a complicated illness to treat, the complication is even higher in older patients. With all the other illnesses and health problems that the elderly experience, treating and managing their depression can be much more difficult. Despite this, senior living facilities and loved ones can still make an effort to effectively manage the symptoms of depression in elderly patients. Here are a few tips on managing depression in seniors:

Aim for early diagnosis As a caretaker of an elderly individual, you have the responsibility to identify any signs of depression or other mental health problems your loved one could be developing. Read up on the early signs and symptoms of the condition, so you can learn to recognize it well ahead of time. For instance, your loved one could be skipping meals frequently or losing interest in a familiar hobby. These are signs that they could be developing depression.

Separate treatments for depression and other ailments As we grow older, we tend to develop a number of health problems that could be associated with depression. We commonly see depression in cancer patients as well as stroke patients. When depression coexists with chronic illnesses, you need to focus on treating both conditions simultaneously instead of simply treating the physical ailment.

Promote communication – When an elderly individual is suffering from depression, talking about how they feel can help them to a great extent. According to University of Iowa’s professor of gerontological nursing Kathleen Buckwalter, seniors find it more difficult to cope with loss when compared to younger individuals because they have a close association with that particular person, object, or ability due to their age.Simply doing something they can no longer do will not really help relieve their mental stress. Instead, you need to approach your loved one with an understanding of their loss. Ask them how they feel about it, listen to them, and respect their emotions.

Focus on insomnia treatment A study conducted by the Psychiatric University Hospital in Zurich revealed that depression and insomnia are interrelated. This means that if your loved one is having difficulty falling asleep at night, you need to look for effective treatment methods as soon as possible. Lack of sleep can worsen the symptoms of depression even further.Other sleep disorders like fragmented sleep can also have a negative impact on a depression patient. Addressing any problem your loved one might have with sleep can play a significant role in relieving the symptoms of depression. However, avoid resorting to powerful medications, as they can be harmful for elderly individuals.

Avoid taking over their lives Although your elderly loved one with depression may need you around the house to perform certain tasks and run errands, you should avoid doing things for them that they can do themselves. An individual with depression may have a reinforced self-perception of worthlessness and incapability if you do everything for them. A better approach would be to help your loved one in breaking down their tasks into smaller steps. Make sure you praise them for their efforts, so they realize that they are not worthless.