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Depression is pretty common among older adults. It also tends to worsen with age. Around 7 million people above 65 experience depression each year in the US. Some reasons depression is prevalent in older adults include feelings of loneliness and empty nest, poor health conditions, and the approaching death.
When we think about it, it's pretty much understandable. But depression us not a normal part of aging. Far from it, it is important to help our elderly maintain their mental health.
If you are elderly and isolated, read on: I have suggestions to help you avoid or fight feelings of sadness and depression!
Back in 2015, I read a study that examined 2,000 older Australians for 15 years and yes, depression increased for both men and women as they got older. This was tied to psychiatric impairment, the onset of medical conditions, the approach of death, even battling arthritis!
In my own experience, another contributor to depression among the elderly population is the loss of family and friends.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw how loneliness and isolation madeg mental illness more pronounced across the country. These are feelings older people usually experience at that point in life.
So what can we do for our elderly? If you are a senior, what can you do to combat loneliness and depression?
I have a few suggestions.
1. Build social connections. If you have elderly loved ones or neighbors, check in on them. If you are elderly and far away from family, call your people!
If you have video capability, you should absolutely do video calls so everyone gets some face-to-face interaction. Even though a Zoom call or a video message is two-dimensional, we get a little shot of dopamine when we see a familiar face.
2. Talk about eating patterns. If you're calling an elderly loved one, ask them if they're eating regularly. Depression can sap motivation for even basic tasks, such as cooking. Better yet, if you can, take them meals fairly regularly. You can do a socially-distanced drop or arrange food delivery so they are not just convenience-eating. It's amazing what a good, nourishing meal can do to lift your spirits!
3. Do crafts for service. This may sound overly-simplistic, but one of the major factors that affects the elderly as they age is a feeling they lack purpose. If you can work with your hands, there are organizations in every city and every state that take donated blankets, baby hats, masks, etc.
To find where to donate homemade masks, Click here!
To donate crocheted goods, click here!
For instructions on how to donate baby goods to your local NICU, click here!
4. Write some letters. There are people in care centers who haven't had visitors in months and they need contact. Here's a link to an agency that is collecting letters for the elderly: Love For Our Elders. Better yet, get in contact with your local nursing homes and ask for names and addresses to send mail to people right in your community!
5. Exercise. There is so much research that links exercise in the elderly with lower depression rates, better mobility, even better digestion! Encourage your elderly loved one to move around. If you are elderly and isolated, do what you can to get moving. Even sets of sitting exercises can help so much. And if you can get outside and walk a bit, so much the better!
Seniors, we love you. We want to help you with good social support and to maintain a sense of purpose. And if you've been putting off calling your elderly loved one, make it a priority today!