Caring for Parents: Know the Warning Signs of Depression


It's important to know the warning signs of depression, when caring for parents. Elder health care studies have shown that changes in Caring for Parents: Know the Warning Signs of Depressionhealth and loss of social connections put seniors at high risk for developing depression.

The key to caring for parents at risk for depression is to look for changes in behavior and get your parent connected with their elder health care provider.

What to watch for:

  • Disrupted sleep
  • Increased fatigue and body aches
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Impaired short term memory
  • Not enjoying activities your parent normally enjoys.
  • Feeling sad, worthless, hopeless, anxious or helpless
  • Loss of appetite
  • Missed medication doses
  • Not paying attention to personal hygiene

When your parent experiences any of the symptoms listed above daily for a period of two or more weeks, she may be depressed. Suicidal thoughts and actions or reckless behaviors require immediate attention from your parent's elder health care provider.

Don't believe these depression myths when caring for your parents

Myth Reality
It's normal for older people to be sad. Elder health care studies have shown that seniors as a group are happier than younger people.
Depression is a sign of weakness. Depression results from an imbalance of brain chemicals.  Drugs prescribed by your parent's elder health care provider can restore balance and quality of life.
Grief and depression are the same. Grief and depression can have similar symptoms but grief is a natural response to a significant loss and will lessen over time.
Depression can be overcome with effort. Addressing depression symptoms requires the help of your parent's elder health care provider.

When you suspect depression:

  • Insist that your parent be screened for depression by her elder health care provider.
  • Help your parent follow through on referrals for therapy and prescriptions from the doctor.
  • Encourage your parent to participate in community elder care programs even if he is resistant. Isolation and lack of activity can make depression symptoms worse.
  • Be supportive and persistent.  It may take many conversations before your family member is willing to take action.

Has your parent had depression?  How did you convince them to get help from their elder health care provider?

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--Janice Wallace