Depression is a disease that tends
to be denied by the current
generation of elderly people, many
of whom were raised in an
atmosphere where showing feelings
was discouraged, and this adds to
Social withdrawal is the most common
telltale sign of depression.
Elderly patients may actively deny a depressed mood because of
the perceived stigma of both depression and the need for help
with psychiatric problems.
This issue has been recognized within the medical community.
• A study with six rural family physicians in Nebraska showed that
although the physicians felt they could usually recognize and treat
depression adequately, they tended not to use the diagnosis of
• This was due to the fear that perceived stigma might threaten the
doctor–patient relationship, and also compromise the future
treatment of those patients who had depression recorded in their
So, how can you help a loved one who you think is suffering from
depression? Here are three tips
Don’t impose your terminology
‘No, I am not depressed’ may mean you need to listen carefully to
discern what has changed in their life.
For many elderly people, biological issues such as low appetite or poor
sleep are more acceptable as reasons to request help. Try to use these
issues as a hook to discuss ideas about how to sleep better or longer or
Don’t say the words ‘depression,’ ‘drugs,’ or ‘therapy’ if an older adult
doesn’t buy into the idea that they need help.
Don’t try to run that person’s life
Caregivers should not to try to do things for older people that they can
do for themselves. Doing things for a depressed person is often not
helpful at all, because it reinforces their perception that they are
worthless and incapable.
Instead, help your elderly relative break tasks into steps and praise them
for any efforts.
Try to participate in their medical care
Because of confidentiality laws, doctors can’t disclose information to
families without the patient’s permission.
Many older people will give that permission but some won’t. Asking if
you can accompany the family member to the doctor, just to be a
second set of eyes and ears, is a good way to get access. Family
members can also call the doctor me and let them know what they are
seeing, and most doctors will think it helpful.
• Showing an interest in the life of an elderly person can be a great help
in helping them work through depression.
• The life experiences of the elderly can seem to revolve around loss,
loss of friends as they move or pass away, loss of physical abilities, loss
of health and loss of independence.
• But there are still many joys that can be experienced and sometimes
we need someone else to help us out of the darkness and back into the
Help them get out of the house, get to social events or sit down for a
meal with them. Eating can be a social event and having someone to
talk to at meal time can be a great mood booster.
It is important to try to maintain involvement
Around mealtimes, shopping and food
Preparation for as long as possible.
Remember, The happiest of people don’t necessarily have the best of
everything; they just make the most of everything that comes along
This is true at any stage of life.
BrightStar knows the value and importance of
compassion, dignity, and respect for all of our clients and their
families across all stages of life.
Whether you are in need of a little extra help around the house or
concerned about a parent, grandparent, or loved one who is no longer
able to properly care for themselves, BrightStar companion care services
can provide the in-home care you’re looking for.
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