Declining mental health in seniors is a common problem. Wellness Director, Eunice Beyan, shares valuable information on recognizing signs of depression, mitigation, and treatment strategies.
What are some common signs of declining mental health in seniors?
It is a lack of participation in activities. When they start to experience a change in their mental health, depression, anxiety, they have no desire to be a part of activities they usually would partake in.
Are there any symptoms of geriatric depression that are separate from just declining mental health?
Interaction with family plays a big part. When you see that they start to lose that piece, this can be a trigger as well. They will start declining at a faster rate than what you will see for someone who is younger.
How should seniors know when it’s time to seek help?
If they have that failure to thrive, when they start noticing they show no interest in being a part of group activities, interacting with their family, and they are more focused on secluding themselves. Also, have a conversation, sometimes they go into that state and they don’t even realize that that’s what’s happening. So if there is a change in your mood, change in being down, and they don’t want to do certain things, then definitely seek help at that time.
Who should they reach out to if they need help?
They can reach out to a family member or if they have a support system outside of their family. They can speak to their doctor, a community wellness director, or their care team. These people will usually have the best resources.
If a senior is diagnosed with depression, what are some common treatment options you may see for them?
Common treatments include therapy. I know sometimes we tend to shy away from that but, seeing a psychiatrist or psychologist helps. We turn to medication but we try to use other interventions prior to that. Seeing what the root cause is and sometimes changing what the root cause is. Maybe some of the activities that have been of interest before have changed, so seeing what their new interest is also helpful.
What should I do if someone close to me is depressed?
Offer assistance and be a listening ear. Also, see what resources out in the community you can find for them as well. Help them any way that you can, don’t just leave it alone or kind of brush off the situation because it can get dark fast.
What strategies could seniors use to mitigate mental health problems before they arise?
Realizing that there is a problem before they arise. Also enriching your life helps too. If you see yourself getting to where you’re not interested in activities, or you’re not interested in what you were before, maybe shifting what your interests are and focusing on that can be good. We have people who were professional football players and now they may be into puzzles. As they get older, what their focus is and what their interests are will change, so being able to shift and be okay with that new space can avoid going into that depression.
If I could give advice to people who are in the lives of seniors it would be to be mindful of those warning signs. When you see someone secluding themselves or when you see them not showing interest in what they were interested in before, have a conversation and be blunt with it. Sometimes people are just waiting for someone to ask and then they’ll be able to open up. Even if they’re unable to open up I would say to bring in other resources to help that person because sometimes it’s a silent cry for help.