Depression is relatively common among older adults.  That is not to say that it is normal.  Depression goes beyond “feeling blue” or “a little sad.”  Depression can be a debilitating condition like any other disease.

It is, therefore, essential to know how to recognize the symptoms of depression and react appropriately to your parents or any person for whom you care.

Senior Depression – Here are a few things to look for:

Does your parent seem to feel more tired than usual? Perhaps you observe the desire to stay in bed longer.  Or, once out of bed, showing little energy to take part in activities that he or she used to enjoy with more enthusiasm.

Is your parent less inclined to eat regularly or eat foods that are not high in nutrition as a default food source?  One indication of depression shows up in eating patterns. One tendency is to eat “comfort food” that may not be as healthy or have the right mix of nutrients. Or, worse, the senior stops finding joy in eating and stops almost entirely. You can monitor their weight as an indicator of this behavior.

Is your parent showing more anger or frustration?  Sometimes, depression can present as anger or frustration.  Some seniors, especially men, will have an outburst at an outsider like a homecare aide or nurse with little provocation.  The chemistry of depression can limit the ability to have patience or empathy toward those around him.

Has your parent lost interest in things he or she used to like?  Has your parent started to decline invitations to family events or stopped doing things they used to enjoy?  Sudden shifts in willingness to participate may suggest a struggle with depression.

Has your parent started to struggle with decision-making?  Depression can make elderly people unable to make major decisions or even small ones like determining what to wear or what to eat.  They may decide to stay in pajamas or skip a meal if it seems too overwhelming.

Does your parent express frustration with the state of the world?  Has your parent started talking about the hopelessness about situations he or she hears on the news? Things are bad and never going to be better. When these feelings are articulated, this, too, can be a sign of depression.

When an adult child suspects that a parent may be suffering from depression, it’s important to approach the situation with empathy and care. The first step is to have an open and honest conversation with the parent, expressing concern without judgment. It’s crucial to listen actively, providing a safe space for the parent to share their feelings.

Encouraging the parent to seek professional help is vital. This could involve researching therapists or counselors, offering to accompany them to appointments, or helping them navigate healthcare services. It’s also beneficial to educate oneself about depression to better understand the condition.

Supporting the parent through small, daily actions can make a significant difference. This includes spending quality time together, helping with routine tasks, or simply being there to offer companionship. It is important to be patient and understanding. Recovery from depression can be a gradual process.

Finally, it’s essential for adult children to take care of their own mental health. Seeking support from friends, support groups, or a counselor can provide the necessary resilience to be there for the parent. Addressing mental health is a sign of strength, not weakness. Taking these steps can lead to a healthier future for both the parent and the adult child.