Caregiving When Someone Seems Depressed or Lonely

Let’s talk about mental health. Did you know 1 in 5 older adults have symptoms of depression?

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Coping with emotions like sadness, loneliness or frustration can be stressful for the person experiencing them as well as for family and friends.

Depression can affect anyone, at any age, but is often not recognized in older adults. Depression is not a normal part of aging.

Symptoms of depression include:

  • Feeling sad
  • Losing interest in activities he or she used to enjoy
  • Less energy and feeling tired
  • Not feeling well, having aches and pains
  • Feeling guilty or worthless
  • Difficulties thinking and concentrating
  • Problems sleeping (too much or not enough)
  • Changes in appetite and weight
  • Feeling agitated, restless and/or sluggish
  • Thoughts of suicide or death

(Canadian Coalition for Seniors’ Mental Health, 2012)

How can family and friends help?

  • Encourage the person to see their family doctor to see if the symptoms require treatment such as medication or counseling.
  • Ask for help. Depression is easily treated by health professionals.
  • Find ways to stay socially connected, like having a friend over for tea, joining a seniors’ club about an interest (e.g., chess or model railways), going to adult day programs in their community, or volunteering.
  • Help them stay physically active by finding a walking club or exercise program at a community centre or seniors centre.
  • Help your loved one live a healthy lifestyle by eating a healthy, balanced diet, getting regular exercise and staying socially active.

As people age they may not be interested in or able to participate in the same hobbies and social activities. Try encouraging new activities that he or she is able to do:

  • Puzzles and games like cards or Scrabble are fun, social and can help improve brain functioning and fine motor skills.
  • Ask him or her to help you identify photos and create a family memory book.
  • With family members and neighbours, arrange regular social activities with your loved one like mentoring or tutoring children or teens, going to a show, or taking art workshops.
  • Playing Wii games, like bowling, which are popular for their variety and ease of use. There’s no age limit on fun!
  • Bring on the tunes! Find their favourite music and enjoy singing and dancing.

Top Tips:

  • Depression can be treated — make sure you see your family physician for any mood or activity changes.
  • Take care of yourself—you will help others by helping yourself
  • Live a healthy active lifestyle that includes socialization, exercise , healthy diet and involvement in your community

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