הבלוג של הסבתא / general info / Depression: Overcoming Geriatric Depression (Part 2)

Depression: Overcoming Geriatric Depression (Part 2)

In our previous article, we discussed about general causes of depression in Senior Adults or Elderly. We already have an overview of this disease as well as the symptoms that we need to note down in case we are in doubt if a loved one or a patient is suffering from depression or not.

In this article, we will talk about how we can provide support for the patient to overcome depression. This is specifically for the caregivers who are dealing with patients in this situation. But, we will also include the roles of the patient's family for them to help their loved one who is suffering from this very unfortunate disease.

First of all, we have to differentiate the difference between Dementia and Depression. Most of us will possibly get confused with the symptoms since most of it are generally the same. But there are, however, some differences that might help you to distinguish the two from each other:

Is it Depression or Dementia?

Depression Dementia
Mental decline is relatively rapid.

Mental decline happening very slowly.

Aware of the date, time and knows where he/she is at a given time. Confused or disoriented; feeling lost in common and familiar places.
Difficulty concentrating. Difficulty in recalling what happened in the last few hours; short-term memory loss.
Language and motor skills are slow but normal. Impaired langugae and motor skills.
Notices and bothered by his or her memory problems. Doesn't notice or even care about his/her memory problems.

While Depression is absolutely reversible, Dementia on the other hand is a complicated disease. Though some symptoms of Dementia can be halted or slowed, it is usually associated with Alzheimer's Disease or an after-effect of a more complicated diseases such as stroke and others. 

Helping A Depressed Senior Adult Patients:

The most difficult depressed patient to help are those who doesn't even recognize themselves as Depressed. This is common especially to Elderly who are ashamed or too proud to ask for assistance or those who are afraid of becoming a burden to their loved ones. They have the tendency to keep the emotions hidden and if you don't observe closely, it will be easy to ignore the signs. This is where the elderly caregivers are needed. 

This condition needs coordination and cooperation from both the family and the caregiver. Caregivers has a vital role in helping a depressed elderly because they spent more time with the patient than their children or loved ones. No one knows the real condition of the patient better than them. The day to day changes, mood swings and the unusual attitude manifested by the patient is often noted by caregivers and they are usually the first people who makes premature diagnoses which are always correct.

  1. Offer Emotional Support to the Patient - You don't have to find a solution to whatever concerns they are complaining about. Sometimes, all they need is someone to be there and listen. Do not criticize or get angry no matter how nonsense are the expressed feelings. Instead, point out reality and give hope.

  2. Help find a Good Doctor - It is important for them to have a correct diagnosis and appropriate treatement. Though this is more likely a responsibility of a loved-one or a family member, the caregiver can help in accompanying the patient to his/her appointment and give moral support.

  3. Make sure all medications are taken as instructed - Anti-depressants are often prescribed by doctors if the patient cannot be "counseled" out of the situation. It is the caregivers role to make sure that advises and prescriptions from the doctor are taken by the patient.

  4. Encourage the patient to finish the treatment - Depression is a disease than can recur from time to time especially if the treatment is stopped sooner than it has to be. You have to give encouragement and convinced them to finish the treatment they started.

  5. Take them out - invite your loved one to a restaurant, museums, movie or theater plays which you think he/she will enjoy. Depression progresses if one person's mind and body is inactive. Caregivers can bring their patients out for a walk in the park, coffee shops or in areas where they can feed pigeons or window shopping.

  6. Find a social group where they can join - Depressed people often feel better when they are around with others. Find a local senior community center which are active and offers outings and other activities such as paintings, gymnastics, card and board games. These can help lessen their loneliness and isolation.

  7. Pay attention to Nutrition - One of the things that makes depression deadly is the loss of appetite. Plan and prepare nutritious meals. Make sure your patient is eating right by giving them plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and protein. Make the food pleasant to eat to boost their appetite.

  8. Sleep - Make sure they have enough sleep. Seek advise from the doctor if you notice sleepless nights which makes the patient weak and grumpy. Sleeping pills are sometimes given together with anti-depressant medications.

  9. Make sure they have enough exercise - Physical activity has powerful mood-boosting effects. An hour of walking with the patient everyday can make a significant difference. Make sure your patient is still active despite or his/her condition. If the patient is confined to a wheelchair, make sure to conduct some exercises which will at least, move the legs from time to time.

  10. Watch out for suicide warning signs - Seek immediately for professional help whenever you suspect that your patient or loved one is showing the signs of suicidal tendencies.

  11. Have a lot of patience - You cannot help someone with depression if you don't have tons of patience. One thing that a depressed person need is understanding. Read and be well-informed about Depression so that you will have a better knowledge about the disease. In this way, you will be able to understand the unbalanced behaviour of your patient or loved one.

  12. Take care of yourself - As much as you want to be there for them and do everything to help them, you also need to take care of yourself. It is painful to see your loved one suffering but you cannot let this consume you. Caregivers need some time for themselves too and get in touch with their own reality. You also need enough sleep and eat right as much as your patient. For you to be able to do your job efficiently, you also have to consider your well-being no matter what.

Remember, being supportive involves offering encouragement and hope. Very often, this is a matter of talking to the person in language that he or she will understand and respond to while in a depressed mind frame. ( http://www.helpguide.org )

What you can say that helps:

  • You are not alone in this. I’m here for you.

  • You may not believe it now, but the way you’re feeling will change.

  • I may not be able to understand exactly how you feel, but I care about you and want to help.

  • When you want to give up, tell yourself you will hold on for just one more day, hour, minute—whatever you can manage.

  • You are important to me. Your life is important to me.

  • Tell me what I can do now to help you.

Avoid saying:

  • It’s all in your head.

  • We all go through times like this.

  • Look on the bright side.

  • You have so much to live for why do you want to die?

  • I can’t do anything about your situation.

  • Just snap out of it.

  • What’s wrong with you?

  • Shouldn’t you be better by now?

Depression is a serious but treatable disorder that affects millions of people, from young to old and from all walks of life. But, it doesn't define the person's whole being. It only takes courage to face the reality, willingness to overcome it and a solid support and encouragement from people who are willing to help. 



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