Senior Living Care Blog

Treating Depression In Seniors

Posted by Jackson Bentley on Nov 14, 2018 11:00:00 AM

While it’s normal for your senior to feel down from time to time, feelings of sadness should resolve themselves eventually. In cases of clinical depression however, these feelings may last for weeks and even months on end. The mental illness of depression is not well understood, but clinicians are growing to recognize the large role it can play in interfering with the daily lives of those who suffer from it. Seniors with clinical depression should seek out professional treatment in the form of counseling and medication in order to relieve the symptoms of this illness.


While every senior’s body chemistry and brain are different, there can still be effective treatment options that work for a variety of patients. Detection of this condition is important, because it goes undiagnosed in many individuals and can lead to poorer physical health and even death. The first step in the path to diagnosing depression in seniors is to make an appointment with a medical or mental health clinician.


An older man sitting alone outdoors on a bench


How to Diagnose Depression in Seniors

Seniors who may be depressed find it difficult to discuss with their children about this condition and may wish to avoid seeing the doctor. If you think your senior may be depressed but won’t talk about it, it could be useful to consult with your senior’s primary care physician to set up an appointment and have the doctor attempt to probe for signs and symptoms of depression. The rapport that your senior may have with their doctor may make it easier for them to be forthcoming about the subject of depression.


During the appointment, the doctor may ask about medications, symptoms, mood, and how they are getting along in day to day life. They may also perform a physical exam to see if there are any underlying physiological causes (vitamin deficiency, hypothyroidism) that could be causing the depression to manifest. After the examination, the doctor may recommend further treatment from a mental health worker, social worker, mental health counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist. These clinical providers should prove beneficial to helping your senior treat their symptoms.



Depression Therapy for Seniors

While you may be doing your best to converse with your senior and give them the opportunity to talk with their peers, it still be be beneficial to find someone trustworthy and credible that they can talk to, i.e. a professional therapist. Therapy may prove more useful than a purely pharmaceutical approach. There are many different types of therapy that work better for some people than they do for others.


For instance, in cognitive behavioral therapy, senior patients will work on identifying and modifying their thoughts to be more positive. In support groups, seniors can work on learning new coping skills and gaining social support for their self esteem. In interpersonal therapy, patients work on improving their relationship with others and strengthening and expanding their support system.


Many mental health professionals will utilize a combination of different therapeutic approaches in their overall treatment model. The best path to pursue is finding a therapist that your senior feels comfortable sharing with. Consider searching online or by asking friends and family for recommendations.



Senior Medications for Depression

Antidepressant medications may seem like a drastic or dangerous step for your senior to take. However, clinicians will conduct a thorough assessment of your senior’s condition before taking any action, including their past medical history and any current medications they may be taking. Many doctors may start by choosing a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor such as Lexapro, Celexa, or Prozac to start your senior’s treatment. SSRI’s are considered safer than most forms of antidepressants because they have the fewest side effects. These drugs will help your senior to regulate serotonin levels in the brain.


Seniors who are placed in nursing homes, retirement communities, or assisted living facilities will be able to have their primary care physician transfer prescription information to the facility. This ensures that your senior is equipped to receive the medication they need, and facility staff will help them to stay on track with their medication. Some of these medications may take up to 12 weeks in order to begin working at their peak effectiveness. As long as your doctor or senior living facility is aware of your senior’s medical past and mental health conditions, your senior should be safe taking prescribed medication for depression.



Exercising to Combat Depression

For anyone, staying in shape is a positive way to keep happy and healthy. It’s also an excellent method for lowering risk of adverse health conditions such as heart disease, obesity, and even anxiety and depression. Regularly scheduled physical activities are even more important for persons at an advanced age level. Staying active can improve quality of life for seniors, reduce risk of falling injuries and improve mental perception. In order to live long, productive lives, it’s important for seniors to keep their bodies moving, fueled with the right substances, and achieving adequate sleep. Even mild exercise like walking outdoors or in a shopping mall, gardening, dancing, and swimming are excellent options.



Encourage Active Interest in Shared Hobbies

We all get a little bit happier when we get to do the things we like best. Hobbies are an excellent way for seniors to achieve purpose and increase their sociability. If your senior enjoys painting or drawing, you should encourage them not only by praising their efforts but perhaps sign them up for art classes nearby. Even if they don’t believe they’re good enough, there are plenty of beginner options and other art mediums such as scrap-booking, pottery, photography, knitting, or sewing. Art therapy is an excellent modicum for expression and a great chance to get out there and make friends. Whether you enroll in local community classes, or join a senior community offering all kinds of classes and amenities, you’re practically guaranteed a great time. The key behind finding the right activity is getting your senior actively engaged in a fun hobby that they will enjoy, and that encourages physical activity and social participation.



In Conclusion

By seeking treatment for your senior’s depression, you can drastically improve their quality of life during their golden years. At Landmark Senior Living, we have Boston assisted living along with multiple other locations offering senior housing options at an affordable rate. Our facilities offer plenty of chances for seniors to meet, socialize, and engage in fun activities that help them keep active and engaged with the community.


Topics: Senior Mental Health

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