Depression affects approximately 20% of people over the age of sixty-five, yet only about one in six is treated appropriately. Depression is a treatable medical condition, not a natural part of the aging process. To further complicate the issue, 80% of those over 65 have at least one chronic condition, and 50% have 2 or more. The burden of living with a chronic condition, particularly one not well managed can increase the liklihood of experiencing depression. As you care for your parents, report any of these symptoms to your parents’ doctor:
- Expressions of hopelessnes and/or pessimism
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness/ helplessness
- Irritability, restlessness
- Loss of interest in activities or hobbies
- Fatigue, decreased energy
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, making decisions
- Insomia or excessive sleeping
- Overeating or loss of appetite
- Thoughts of suicide
- Persistent aches or pains that do not improve with treatment
While there have been wonderful advancements in medications used to treat depression, don’t discount non-drug approaches as well. Encourage your parent to exercise. Persons using wheelchairs may still enjoy swimming, hand weights, and “chair aerobics”. Access to sunshine and fresh air is a must, socializing, laughing, playing games and working on puzzles stimulate the mind, and making plans for the future, even just the next week are all life-enhancing activities. Everyone wants to feel they have value and are contributing. Needlework and sewing can be donated to a children’s hospital, or to soldiers overseas. Fishing flies can be tied for local scout troops. Even peeling potatoes for dinner is beneficial. There are many, many opportunities to contribute.
Be patient. It may take some time for a person struggling with depression to come around. Continue to offer and suggest. An improved quality of life is a priceless gift.