April 7th marks an important awareness day that is celebrated worldwide every year since 1948. The World Health Organization (WHO) uses this day, known as World Health Day, to generate a greater amount of attention surrounding a specific disease or disorder. This year they have decided to highlight depression around the campaign titled “Let’s Talk.”
Sadly, depression affects over 300 million people globally, and due to the stigma surrounding mental illness, not everyone gets treatment for it. This is also a major issue within the elderly community. As we grow older, we lose loved ones and quite possibly some of our independence. Also, some seniors become isolated. Their friends and family move away from them, and their lack of mobility keeps them from being in contact with the ones they love.
For these reasons, it would be normal to feel sad, however, this doesn’t mean it’s a normal part of aging. Growing older does not mean you grow sadder. It should be quite the opposite. Therefore, if you suspect an elderly loved one may be experiencing depression, do as World Health Day suggests: talk about it. But in order to do so, you’ll need to know what the signs and symptoms are.
They are as follows:
Lack of Care for Personal Appearance
One of the biggest signs that your parent or loved one is suffering from depression is their appearance. If they neglect to bathe or shower for extended periods of time, or if they generally do not care what they’re wearing from day-to-day, they might be suffering from depression. A general disregard for one’s outward appearance is usually an early warning, because it shows a lack of pride, and we should always be proud of how we look!
Sometimes small things can get to us, especially if they occur over and over again. However, it isn’t healthy for us to constantly be irritated. A level head leads to better mental health. That’s why if you notice mom, dad, or a loved frequently perturbed by minor incidences, you should remain watchful. Irritability is also a major symptom of depression along with other sudden mood swings.
Being socially isolated can cause depression, however if your loved one is already depressed, he or she might not want to be social. It’s an ugly Catch 22. If you notice that a loved one is unusually brief on the telephone or has cancelled lunch and dinner dates for no reason, he or she may be suffering from a mental illness such as depression. If this is the case, then it’s best to deny their wishes of being alone. Sometimes seeing a friendly or familiar face is enough to get us out of that negative funk. Turn their day around by going to visit them.
Increase in Pain
Even though depression and sadness may seem to go hand-in-hand, that is not always the case. Many seniors who suffer from depression will often say that they don’t feel sad. Instead they might tell you that their arthritis is really acting up, or they’re suddenly getting terrible headaches every day. This another symptom of depression for seniors. Perhaps their mood won’t alert you to their depression but their increase in pain from various chronic conditions may.
Don’t Remain Silent
This year’s tagline for World Health Day truly represents the first step of recovery for depression or any other mental health issue: Let’s Talk. If you suspect a loved one is feeling down or depressed, we encourage you to talk to them. Even though most cases of depression don’t require clinical care for an individual to recover, that does not mean you should just sit back and wait for it all to unfold. It’s important for our senior loved ones to know that they have a strong supportive network backing them at all times!