Do you worry that someone you care about may have depression? It may surprise you that depression affects over 300 million people worldwide. Depression differs from the usual changes in mood and our brief emotional responses to challenges in our daily lives. Depression can become a serious health problem, particularly when it has been on-going for a considerable time. In severe cases, depression can result in suicide, with nearly 800,000 people taking their own lives each year.
Not a normal part of ageing
Experts believe that over 20% of people aged over 65 live with depression. However, depression is not simply an inevitable part of aging. In actual fact, research has shown that older people are generally more content with their lives, irrespective of any physical health issues. But if depression continues untreated, it can cause other serious health problems. This can include malnutrition, insomnia and contribute to some people developing dementia. A significant and common problem is that older people often don’t ask for help. They feel embarrassed or simply believe their feelings are just normal symptoms of getting older or associated with another condition. Therefore, it’s important that relatives and friends learn the signs to watch out for understand how they can help.
Helping someone with depression
If you have a friend or relative with depression, it’s firstly very important that you help and encourage them to see a doctor or mental health professional and get help as soon as possible. There are also a number of ways you can help an older adult with depression, including:
- Give them understanding, support, encouragement and patience.
- Help them to keep track of their appointments and regularly remind them to take their medication.
- Try to make sure they can always get to see their doctor when they need to.
- Talk to them, encourage them to open up to you and listen carefully to what they tell you.
- Do not ignore any comments made about suicide. It’s important that you report anything like this to the person’s doctor or therapist.
- Invite them to join you for walks and try to get them engaged in outdoor activities.
- Try to keep positive and remind them that with time and treatment, their depression will eventually lift.
Other ways to help yourself
Try to still do the activities you enjoyed before you had depression. Doing these things, even if you feel reluctant initially, can help to make a big difference to lifting your spirits and boosting your well-being. Just take each day at a time. You can also:
- Break big tasks down into smaller ones and only do what you can, when you feel you can. Don’t do too much at once.
- Regularly spend time with other people and share how you feel with a friend or relative that you trust.
- Keep to your treatment plan and be patient. It can take some time for treatment to begin to work.
- Avoid making any important life decisions until you are feeling much better. If something does arise, then talk through it with others before you make any firm decisions.
If you have suicidal thoughts
Older adults with depression can be at risk suicide. If you have been thinking about hurting yourself in anyway, or having suicidal thoughts, then you must tell someone immediately. Call your doctor, go to your nearest hospital emergency room or call the emergency services.
Depression is not a character flaw, a normal part of ageing or a sign of weakness. It’s a medical condition that can be treated. But the key thing to remember is to go easy on yourself, talk to someone and find the best treatment for you. It can feel like a long dark road at times, but with help you can reach a healthier, happier and more positive path.