The misconception among many individuals is that clinical depression is a normal part of growing older. People have various reasons for this belief, but often, it is the prevalence of the health condition that leads many to think that it is a normal part of aging. In fact, clinical depression among long term care residents with dementia is at 63% as stated in Depression in Post Acute/Long Term Care, a study released by the Gerontological Advanced Practice Nurses Association. Moreover, the percentage of nursing home residents who meet the criteria for Major Depressive Disorder is at 12-14%.
As common as it is, people should not see it as a natural part of aging. Individuals, families, and communities must work together and take proactive measures by addressing the symptoms of clinical depression as soon as they arise.
When people bring depression into the conversation, many often assume that it means an overwhelming feeling of sadness. While that does play a role, it is not the only symptom. Clinical depression has a wide range of red flags, some of which are not commonly associated with the health condition.
Clinical depression may be seen in the individual’s behavioral changes. Some grow irritable while others display a sudden lack of interest in the activities they used to find favorable. Others exhibit feelings of hopelessness and helplessness as well as a loss of a sense of purpose and self-worth. Moreover, a fixation on death and thoughts of suicide are red flags.
The warning signs do not stop there. This mental condition may have physical manifestations. These symptoms include problems with sleeping, constant feeling of weakness, and reduced (or increased) appetite. Headaches and other bodily pain without clear medical explanation are also indications.
However, all hope is not lost. The perception of depression and other mental health conditions among people in long term care is slowly changing. In a study done by AARP, they discovered that the new batches of caregivers are more accommodating of mental conditions. Compared to their predecessors, millennial caregivers are more likely to report if their care recipients have an emotional or mental health condition. This allows for early detection and treatment to take place.
How to Deal with these Signs and Avoid Further Complications
There are measures that caregivers, family members, and loved ones can take to keep this from getting worse. These include:
Requiring long term care entails certain limitations and restrictions. However, this should not stop care recipients from taking part in lively activities. Caregivers can hold safe and fun activities among care recipients, and they must be present to ensure that no one gets hurt. Create an atmosphere where each person can contribute, whether it is through decorations or game suggestions. Bear in mind that it might take time to be able to reach other to other individuals who feel inclined to isolate themselves. During these situations, patience becomes vital.
Never underestimate the power of positive reinforcement. Words can be a powerful tool against negativity, loneliness, and even depression. Of course, it might not be enough in some cases, finding ways to help turn negative thoughts—the ones that often overwhelm a person who may have clinical depression— can go a long way. A positive environment where individuals can grow spiritually, mentally, emotionally, socially, and physically can make a great deal of difference in an elderly adult’s well-being.
Busy schedules and travel costs—these are often the top concerns that keep people from visiting and spending time with older loved ones. However, no one should underestimate the benefits of time spent with family and loved ones.
Provide every opportunity for older individuals to spend time with family members, neighbors, and friends. Have enjoyable conversations and share amusing stories with them. Family and friends offer the best emotional support for relieving the symptoms of depression.
While these measures may help, sometimes, professional assistance is necessary. Set an appointment with a counselor or any psychological health professional with experience in treating clinical depression. Reiterate that having clinical depression does not make them less of a person. Similar to a broken foot, clinical depression can be cured if addressed properly.
It is also important to note that elder care costs in the country have become too expensive for the majority. Whether it is clinical depression or Alzheimer’s, older adults are finding it increasingly difficult to catch up with the costs. This is why the generations next in line are encouraged to plan for their long term care. They must take the necessary steps in securing their care coverage before it all starts.