It’s spring! Why is my elderly loved one still depressed?

sad senior womanEven though spring flowers are starting to bloom, cool, rainy or even sunny spring days still can bring on feelings of sadness, depression and a lack of desire to do much of anything. While the rest of us can start doing some favorite outdoor activities and more easily get out to see family and friends, our loved ones may still feel homebound and missing the increased mobility they used to look forward to in spring. Consider one of these as a possible causes of depression in your loved one:
Less Socializing & the Technology Gap: During any time of the year, depression can be caused by social isolation. Help your senior to spend more time with family, friends and neighbors, and when unpredictable spring weather makes visiting difficult, call them for a chat or write a letter that can be read over and over.
While the younger generations are staying well connected with all of today’s high tech gadgets, the elderly are often left out. Older family members need to feel connected, wanted, and loved, too. Some training in electronic ways to connect may help bridge the gap, but many elderly people are incapable of mastering email, Facebook or Skype. Friends can play a vital role in socialization, and new friends can be found at senior centers, church activities or even the library.
Loneliness: Older people are particularly vulnerable to loneliness. Loss of a spouse, friends, family, mobility or income can all play a part. Studies show that being lonely is a leading cause for poor physical and mental health among the elderly and can even lead to early death. When loneliness sets in, it can increase the risk of high blood pressure, over-eating, under-eating, excessive drinking, depression, heart disease and other debilitating diseases, such as arthritis, osteoporosis and glaucoma. People who are lonely are twice as likely to become less involved in daily activities. Alleviating loneliness often can be achieved by more one-on-one contacts of any kind—with friends, family, community &/or assisted living activities and other group services.
Lack of Exercise: Exercise has proved to be almost as effective as medication for some in relieving the symptoms of depression. It produces natural endorphins that act like a drug to increase happiness. Even a short walk or chair exercises can give an elderly person a feeling of accomplishment and self-esteem. Exercise is one of the few things that has been proved to slow the advance of some forms of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s.
Sometimes just a reminder to exercise or being part of a group that exercise regularly can help to create a habit. A family member or home health aide can “spot” an elderly person to be sure that there is no danger of falling or hurting oneself. Exercise is so good for our bodies in so many different ways that everyone should be encouraged to do what they can. Exercise has so many positive effects that we can see how lack of exercise can contribute to depression anytime of the year. Sometimes, Dr. prescribed in-home physical therapy can get your loved one moving again.
Boredom: Often, the elderly gradually have more difficulty planning and initiating a healthy variety of activities. Caregivers may have to take the initiative when it comes to suggesting and planning things to do and opportunities to be with friends and family members.
Boredom that leads to depression is a major concern and can be a danger to seniors. No matter what their physical problems may be, meaningful activities and opportunities to socialize are vital in helping them to maintain their ability to live independently and even to live longer, happier lives.
Summary: Isolation and loneliness, lack of exercise and boredom pose health challenges for seniors all during the year, but with planning and some help, they can be healthier and happier when spring finally arrives.
Dakota Home Care helps aging adults maintain their emotional and physical health and their independence by providing companionship and transportation services. Visits with family, lunch with a friend, an evening out, or being able participate in running errands can be a real mood elevator. For more information, call 701.633.5373. Also see our blog on Courier and Transportation Services.

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