We are well into January and the holidays seem like a distant memory. The extra time spent with family and friends is probably a distant memory too. The January blues can be hard enough for those of us with busy schedules but even harder for our elderly loved ones who are once again alone for chunks of time. What starts off as feeling a little down can spiral into depression.

According to statistics, depression affects about 6 million Americans ages 65 and older. But only 10 percent receive treatment for it. That’s why it’s important to recognize the signs and do your best to keep your loved one feeling special year-round.  Especially with all the snow we’ve been experiencing, which is probably making it hard for your elderly loved ones to get out and about.

What to look out for

If you’re not spending large chunks of time with your loved one, it might be difficult to recognize the signs of depression. Here are some things to watch for:

  • Anxiety or feelings of emptiness
  • Loss of interest in activities and hobbies
  • Increased fatigue and decreased energy
  • Trouble concentrating and making decisions
  • Sleep changes, including difficulty sleeping and oversleeping
  • Appetite and weight changes
  • Irritability and restlessness

Helping your loved one combat depression

Some of the most effective ways to combat depression in the elderly without medication are exercise, healthy eating habits, interaction with friends and family on a regular basis, engaging in activities, and having and caring for a pet.

If you have an aging parent who lives alone or is far away, encourage them to join a senior center (such as New Horizons Senior Center) or get involved in a church, club, or other activity.  Social activities can help ease depression and increase activity. You could also sign your loved one up for a low-impact fitness class to keep them active physically and socially.

Other ways to prevent depression for your loved one are:

  • Check in on them often, even stopping by unexpectedly just to talk or visit with them. Bring them an easy-maintenance plant to care for to give them a sense of purpose.
  • Keep them up to date on other events, such as a family member’s birthday and special days being planned. They will feel part of what’s going on beyond themselves.
  • Make sure they know in advance when they will see family and friends again, and offer to help them pick out a special outfit for the event.

If you’re worried about your loved one being alone, then do get in touch with us. We can support you and your loved one in a host of ways, including providing companionship to help combat the feelings of loneliness and isolation.