Symptoms of depression and memory problems affect many older adults. In fact, recent studies show over seven million older adults experience depression. Depression is often under-recognized and undertreated. Not recognizing signs or acknowledging there is a need can be impairing an older adult’s ability to enjoy life. It can also contribute to poorer overall health. Those living with depression often need more assistance with activities of daily living and show signs of social isolation.
Understanding risk factors that could be contributing to an older adults’ depression is vital in being able to help them. Here are some risk factors to watch for:
· Mental impairment or dementia
· Extended grief due to loss of spouse, friend or family member
· Progressive loss of eyesight or hearing
· History of repeated falls or injuries
· Medication side-effects
· Overall feeling of poor health
For most, the obvious next step to take would be to seek professional consultation with your physician. This is always a good idea. However, another consideration should also be to get the individual engaged in socializing again. This doesn’t mean that someone who is not very social suddenly needs to be pushed to become more social. However, studies have proven that having consistent human contact and interaction can reduce depression.
One recent study I read, appearing in the Annals of Family Medicine, gathered 193 seniors with depressive symptoms and provided either individualized physical activity
or social visits for six consecutive months. Researchers concluded that: “Social contact may be as effective as physical activity in improving mood and quality of life” and “social participation and social support networks are paramount to long-term positive outcomes and psychological well-being for older people.”
Keep this in mind when caregiving for a loved one or friend. There are many opportunities for older adults to get engaged. In some situations, a good way to do this is to make a transition to a senior living community where the person is surrounded by others going through the same phase in life, a full day of activities with socialization as well as continued independence.