2020 was a tough year for many and while everyone was excited to start a new year on January 1, if your parent has been struggling with depression, a simple change in years may not immediately fix what your parent is battling. While depression is common in older adults, it is not normal. It goes beyond simply feeling blue or a little sad and affects your elderly parent in debilitating ways like any other disease. If as her caregiver, you’re wondering if your aging parent is suffering from medical depression, look for the following symptoms. You might be surprised that in older adults, “sadness” is not always the most common symptom that you’ll notice.
Feeling more tired or sleeping more than normal
Your parent may not want to get out of bed or will find he has very little energy to partake in activities he used to enjoy doing. Fatigue may cause him to be unable to get out of bed or off the couch. The more he stays stationary, the more difficult it will be for him to move.
Loss of interest in things he used to like
If your parent always enjoyed bird watching but now expresses no desire to watch birds or if he doesn’t want to attend family events (even if it’s virtually), he might be struggling with depression. Look for repeated declines to participate in activities he has always enjoyed.
Anger and extreme frustration
Although an outburst at the local grocery clerk about not packing his groceries correctly may not look like depression, in men especially, depression can present as anger and frustration. Not feeling okay inside will limit his ability to have patience or care for those around him.
Confusion and difficulty making decisions
When depression becomes all-consuming, many elderly parents find themselves unable to make key decisions or even smaller ones like picking what to eat for dinner. It may cause them to walk away from making the choice at all, so they’ll skip the meal or pay the bill because it seems to overwhelming.
Depression can often cause behaviors that are abnormal to your parent. One of the areas that can be affected is your parent’s eating preferences. He may find himself trying to find comfort in food and thus eating too much or relying only on “comfort” foods that aren’t high in nutrition. Or the opposite could take place where he doesn’t find any joy in eating, so he stops eating almost completely. Watch for any changes in his weight to know if his eating habits have taken a negative turn.
Talking about the uselessness of it all
Elderly parents suffering from depression often talk often of the negative state of the world around them and their loss of hope in anything ever getting better. Your elderly parent might even express his thoughts on his own feelings of hopelessness or point of being in the world anymore.
As a caregiver, it’s important to watch for these symptoms of depression and then talk to your parent and his physician about them. Getting professional help can get your parent back into a healthy mindset, ready to take on the world with hope and energy again.