© Danielle Robertson Consulting Pty Ltd t/as DR Care Solutions
Depression in older people often goes undetected by carers, family and friends.
A loved one's gradual lack of interest in life and their usual activities, coupled with their poor sleep and frustration with physical ailments, may be seen by many as simply the journey of old age. But it may be more than this.
In raising awareness during World Mental Health Week (10 October to 17 October 2020), let's look at identifying the signs of depression in an older person, ways to raise the topic and introduce professional advice.
Amongst the numerous tools used by psychologists, there is one called the Geriatric Depressive Scale which lists 15 questions requiring a 'yes' or 'no' answer and takes around five to seven minutes to complete. It can be used as a self-assessment tool and the questions may be a useful guide in helping a carer gauge the mental health of their loved one.
While some older people may have a history of depression, many may experience it for the first time later in life, particularly after the age of 60. The Black Dog Institute refers to it as non-melancholic depression and it can be brought on by multiple causes, the most common being physical health problems.
There are a range of physical illnesses that can bring on depression in older people, from cancer and chronic pain through to the ongoing roll call of operations needed to replace hip, knees, and ankles or tackle former injuries. Then there's the mix of medications involved in treatment, such as painkillers, that are associated with depression.
Other causes of depression in older age groups include:
- Loneliness brought on by living alone, family living elsewhere, family and friends being too busy looking after their own affairs, and the loss of mobility and independence with say a driver's licence being taken away.
- The sense of loss brought on by the death of a partner, siblings, friends and pets and with them the loss of a lifestyle, independence and happiness.
If you feel your loved one is experiencing depression, a good starting point for acting on those concerns is to have a conversation with them and to then introduce the idea of raising it with their GP and consider seeing a psychologist or psychogeriatrician, ie: a psychiatrist specialising in geriatric care.
It is a sensitive subject and it is best to give some thought and planning to how you will raise it with your loved one. Beyond Blue suggests that you raise the discussion:
- When the person is most likely to be attentive.
- Where the person is most comfortable and at ease.
- In an environment where you both feel safe and will not be interrupted.
Beyond Blue offer some useful tips on conversation openers.
If your loved one dismisses the discussion outright, then try again another time. If you have continuing concerns, keep trying to have the conversation.
Prior planning by way of raising it with your loved one's GP and finding a psychologise who your loved one would relate to can also help ease your loved one into the process.
Please be aware that my comments in this blog are given as guidance only and are no substitute for professional medical advice.
Remember, when it comes to finding care solutions, please feel free to contact me, Danielle Robertson, here at DR Care Solutions, for an initial discussion on how to set up the right care, support and assistance for your loved one, at the right time and in the right place.