Aging Parents and Depression

As our parents age, we want to treasure them for as long as we can, so we look for ways to help them stay healthy and active. But many older people suffer from depression, a condition that is not always easy to battle.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, depression affects more than 6.5 million of the 35 million Americans aged 65 or older. Some have experienced episodes of depression throughout their life, while others may experience the first onset later in life, even well into their 80s and 90s.

What Causes Depression in Older People?

As mentioned, preexisting depression often leads to episodes later in life, particularly if the person has never been officially diagnosed or treated. Individuals with a history of anxiety often become more fearful as they they get older as well and one way many older folks try to cope with the fearfulness is by isolating more, staying in, rarely participating in social activities, which, in turn, can lead to depression.

Some older people have difficulty reviewing their lives. They may not feel proud of the life they’ve led and may get stuck dwelling on the more negative aspects. Perhaps they feel they did not accomplish enough, or they harbor resentment toward historical interactions with family or friends.

And of course, older people have to not only deal with declining abilities but also the loss of loved ones. A unique reality of aging is that your friends start to die, one by one. It is not uncommon for older people to go to several funerals in a single year.

How You Can Help

The very best thing you can do for your parent who you think may be suffering from depression is to offer your love and support. Sometimes that’s face-to-face and sometimes that means that we reach out more via mail or electronics, if they have access to it regularly.

Having said this, it is equally important that you respect their needs for independence. Don’t try to take control of their life and act as if you know what’s best. They are adults and have lived life. There’s wisdom and preference and autonomy needs for our folks.

You might consider visiting a therapist who can help you or your parent work through any unresolved issues, offer emotional management strategies, communication skills and boundary setting ideas. Sometimes a parent’s depression might call for medication, but remember while medication could help, other times, it can impair cognitive function for older folks.

If you or someone you know has been witnessing their aging parent become more and more depressed, please get in touch with me. Let’s discuss options and ways I may be able to support you or the parent.

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Karin Lawson

2312 Wilton Drive, Suite 22
Wilton Manors, FL 33305