A depressed elderly relative or friend may deny feelings of sadness, emptiness and a general lack of interest in life. Often, they may also be too proud to seek assistance.
In addition, many are often unaware of being depressed while others do not believe that depression is a real illness that can be treated with medication and psychotherapy. Owing to these factors, it is not always easy to persuade them to come forward to seek medical help.
Hence, caring for a depressed loved one may not always be easy but with constant patience and understanding, a relative or friend can gradually help their loved one emerge from depression.
How you can provide adequate care to a loved one with depression
Providing care for your depressed relatives and friends is more than just giving them their medication or accompanying them to the doctor. Caring for your loved ones with depression also requires paying attention and being concern about their emotional and social well-being. Here are some suggestions on how you can do so:
- Spend more time with your elderly relative or friend. Read them a book or tell them stories. Encourage them to talk and ask them to share their experiences. Listen to them with patience and compassion.
- Help them acknowledge their feelings. Encourage them to talk about their feelings. Depressed loved ones may be unaware of their feelings of sadness or uselessness. Encourage them to share their feelings by asking about their day and listening patiently when they are in the mood to talk.
- Encourage them to seek medical help. It may not always be easy to persuade a depressed elderly person to seek help. Explain to them what depression is about and how help is available to cope if they exhibit the symptoms of depression, like the persistent feelings of sadness and loneliness.
- See to it that they take their medication. A person is more prone to suffer a relapse if prescribed medication is stopped prematurely. Thus, it is important to remind them to follow through with their prescript medication. In addition, remind them of their doctor’s advice of avoiding alcohol and certain types of food while on medication.
- Set a regular schedule for social activities. Plan interesting activities together. Ask them for suggestions on what they would like to do, or suggest activities to them. Activities that can stimulate them physically and mentally should be encouraged. For example, bring them for walks in the parks or to the museum or theatre.
- Watch out for suicide warnings. If a depressed elderly has mentioned suicide or has persistent thoughts of death and dying, seek help immediately. You may call the following hotlines for immediate assistance:
Singapore Association of Mental Health (SAMH)
1800 2837019 (Toll-Free)
Knowing about depression and its symptoms can help in its early diagnosis and treatment. Read more on depression and ask your doctor about any concerns you may have about caring for yourself and depressed loved ones.