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Signs of Depression in Your Parent

Posted by Constance Schein, RN
on February 11, 2020
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Your daily juggling act as the caregiver to your aging parent can be a challenge.   There are so many things that you are balancing between family, work, and caregiving that you might not be aware of subtle changes in your parent’s mood.  Do you see them napping often, or worse, sleeping all day and uninterested in interacting with members of the family? Are you sensing a change in their personality that’s out of the norm?  These may be some of the subtle signs of depression that can creep up over time.

Depression is not a normal part of the aging process, and you should address issues with depression as you would with any adult.  According to the National Institute of Mental Health, your elderly parent is less likely to confide their feelings of sadness, loss, or despair with you. Perhaps they don’t want to burden you further or are just too overwhelmed.   Many seniors with depression don’t show clear signs and symptoms of depression, making it difficult for a caregiver to notice or might be confused as normal changes due to age.  If your parent has a physical illness, medical condition, or chronic pain, which many seniors do, they are at a higher risk of depression.  Depression can make their illness symptoms even worse. Depression is a recurrent disorder. If your mom or dad has experienced depression in the past, you should be especially vigilant.

Symptoms of depression to watch for include:

1.Extreme feelings.

Is your parent experiencing feelings of deep sorrow, something that they cannot seem to manage or overcome? Do you find they have a loss of hope or sadness?  Do they feel isolated, or are they experiencing feelings of self-loathing?  Everyone can have a bad day, and that is normal.  But depression cumulates to a deep sense of helplessness or despair that feels out of control over an extended period.

2. Loss of interest.

Is your parent losing interest in hobbies and activities that they were passion about or fond of doing?  Do they wish to be isolated and have lost interest in socializing with others?  Do they no longer want to attend social events or holiday celebrations? Do they have a lack of energy or motivation? For someone with depression, life can feel like an uphill battle, and pleasurable activities can be pushed aside. 

3. Physical symptoms. 

Are they neglecting their appearance or hygiene?  Have they lost weight or loss their appetite?  Are they experiencing insomnia? Do they sleep all day or have difficulty sleeping through the night?  Are they experiencing unexplained aches and pains? Has their speech slowed? Depression can come with feelings of fatigue and lack of energy which can lead to poor eating, insomnia, and affect all aspects of their life. 

4. Behavioral changes.  

Are they experiencing more memory problems?  Are they having bouts of confusion or overly demanding behavior?  Are you noticing changes in their personality?  Do they forget to take their medications?  Are they having thoughts of suicide? Or have they attempted suicide? Depression manifests differently in everyone from difficulty concentrating, to poor decision making, and even outbursts of anger or frustration.  Since you know your loved one well, you will be able to flag changes in their behavior perhaps better than anyone.    

5. Increased use of alcohol and/or drugs.

Are they drinking much more, over drinking, or abusing alcohol?  Are they using drugs or alcohol as an escape? Alcohol is a depressant, so it can add to feelings of being blue and even lead to depression. It can be part of a vicious cycle.  

Holistic Approach

Aegis Living has a holistic approach to caring for our aging residents. To ensure their mental health, we have partnered with a medical professional who provides geriatric psychosocial services for our Washington residents. Through scheduled appointments within their communities, our residents can meet to address symptoms they may experience due to depression or other mental disorders. Our goal is to maximize their quality of life and help treat their unique issues. Your dad’s mental health is just as important as his physical health.

Your parent does not have to suffer from depression. They are just as able to bounce back from depression as someone half their age. If you suspect your parent is depressed, consult with their physician who will be able to recommend the appropriate treatment for your loved one.

Profile image of Constance Schein, RN

Constance Schein, RN

Former Senior Vice President of Clinical and Health Services

Constance Schein is a registered nurse with more than 25 years of nursing experience in senior-focused healthcare organizations. She led Aegis Living’s major nursing and care initiatives and was responsible for managing and developing healthcare partnerships, technology, and wellness programs to improve resident care.

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