By Carol Applegate

Elderly depression is rising as the pandemic lingers, according to experts. The need to social distance and the cancellation of numerous events and in-person visits is contributing to loneliness and isolation among the older population.

 

WebMD says, “Depression is common in elderly adults, but it isn’t normal.” September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month and the elderly are even more vulnerable to depression and suicide than usual due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Experts say those in long-term care and assisted living are dying of loneliness, even if they don’t take their own lives.

 

Signs of Elderly Depression

 

Some older adults will admit to feelings of overall sadness, decreased energy and a lack of motivation that signal depression.  However, others will complain of physical symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, difficulty sleeping and trouble concentrating.

 

If you or a loved one are experiencing feelings of hopelessness or thoughts of self-harm, reach out immediately to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for those in acute distress at 1-800-273-8255.

 

Easing Elderly Depression

 

The National Alliance on Mental Illness has compiled a really helpful guide to staying connected to help fight depression during the COVID-19 pandemic. It includes tips on meditation, giving back to help increase joy and finding support. Officials say it is important to get back to basics during this time of anxiety and uncertainty. Focus on exercise, eating well and keeping a regular schedule.

 

If you want to help a loved one who is struggling and you can’t be there in person, there is a simple step you can take to help: send a letter. Research shows that written support can have a significant impact on the recipient’s mental health.

 

You can also create a feeling of companionship by acknowledging this situation is difficult. Don’t try to sugar coat it. Instead, offer to check in regularly with the struggling person by phone, then do it at the set date and time. Remind them they’ve coped with adversity in the past and discuss past techniques they used that might help now.

If someone is religiously-inclined, encourage them to reach out to a pastor, rabbi or other spiritual advisor.

If you are worried that a loved one in a nursing home is struggling with depression, ask for a referral to a psychologist or social worker. If you or your loved one is a Life Care Planning client of Applegate & Dillman, contact us to help.

We all need a feeling of connection right now, no matter our age. Explore ways to connect by phone or plan a visit outside where everyone wears a mask. Social distancing doesn’t have equal isolation and depression.