How to Help Seniors Deal With Depression Following the Loss of a Spouse
One of the most difficult parts of growing older for many people comes with losing those that we love. If you are helping to care for a senior loved one and that senior has lost their spouse, then you want to be prepared to handle some of the signs and symptoms of depression that may come with this condition. If your loved one ends up suffering from depression, then it is important that you are able to notice the signs of this condition and help your loved one get the professional assistance that they need. Depression is unfortunately extremely common in the elderly community, so the more you can do to help diagnose an ultimately treat depression in your loved one, the better off they will be.
The first thing to understand is that grief and depression can often look similar. The symptoms of these two experiences can look similar, but just because an individual is experiencing grief, it doesn’t mean that they are also dealing with depression. The symptoms of grief tend to change and fluctuate by the day, or even by the hour. However, depression involves more consistent negative symptoms and side effects. While it is normal for seniors to not want to go out in certain social situations following the loss of a spouse when seniors completely isolate themselves from their favorite people and favorite activities, a more serious condition may be at the cause of this behavior.
Here are some other signs that your loved one may be suffering from depression:
- No longer wanting to leave the house
- Not showering or grooming
- Not wanting to participate in favorite activities
- Losing weight
- Gaining weight
- Not eating or having a loss of appetite
- Feeling physically ill or sore without explanation
- Losing interest in favorite hobbies
- Having unpredictable fits of anger
- Refusing to talk about the situation or interact with loved ones
- Staying in bed all day
- Sleeping a lot more
- Sleeping a lot less
While there is nothing you can do to make a senior forget about something as tragic as the passing of a spouse, there are things you can do in order to help them get over an issue with grieving so that it doesn’t develop into a full-blown depression. In addition to offering your support, help them stay healthy by getting exercise and plenty of sleep. You should also make sure that they are seeking outside, professional support in order to get the help that they require. The positive thing about diagnosing depression is that many times, seniors are able to overcome these issues and get back to a normal, healthy and balance life.
Nothing can trigger depression quite like the loss of a spouse. Unfortunately, there are hundreds of seniors who end up losing a spouse every day and may be at risk for developing serious depression following their loss. Stay aware of the signs and symptoms so you can be there to help your senior loved one during this difficult time.
- Kimberly Langdon M.D. is a retired, board-certified obstetrician/gynecologist with 19-years of clinical experience. She graduated from The Ohio State University College of Medicine earning Honors in many rotations. She then completed her OB/GYN residency program at The Ohio State University Medical Center, earning first-place for her senior research project and placed in the 98th percentile on the national exam for OB/GYN residents in the U.S..
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