To say that 2020 has been a tough year may be an extreme understatement. With the entire world shutting down and keeping families apart it has been hard on everyone but it's been particularly hard on seniors. It will come as no surprise, to hear that more people are reporting feelings of depression and anxiety than in previous years. But how do you recognize depression? And what can be done about it?
Do you think you might be depressed?
Ask yourself these questions:
- Have you lost interest in the activities you used to enjoy?
- Do you struggle with feelings of helplessness and hopelessness?
- Are you finding it harder and harder to get through the day?
If you said yes to these questions, please know that you’re not alone. Depression can happen to any of us at any age, regardless of background, with or without a global pandemic.
It’s important to understand that the symptoms of depression can affect many of your life, including your appetite, energy, sleep, and your interest in hobbies and relationships.
It’s not inevitable. Please know that depression is not an inevitable part of getting older—and it is not a sign of weakness or a character flaw of any kind. It can happen to anyone, at any age, no matter your background or your previous accomplishments in life.
Changes in life—such as retirement, the death of loved ones, declining health, COVID-19—can trigger depression, these things don’t have to keep you down. No matter what challenges you face as you age, there are many steps you can take to help you feel happy again so you can really enjoy life again.
Medical reasons. Depression is tricky and there can be underlying medical reasons for your depression. So, we must be aware that medical problems can cause depression in older adults, either directly or as a psychological reaction to the illness. Any chronic medical condition, can lead to depression or make your depression symptoms worse. Talk to your doctor if you are concerned.
Medication side effect. We need medication to control a whole host of medical concerns but they can have some side effects and unfortunately, depression can occur as a side effect of many commonly prescribed drugs. And if you are taking multiple medications you could be at a higher risk of depression. Mood-related side effects of medications can affect anyone; however, seniors are more sensitive to these side effects.
If you begin to feel depressed after starting a new medication, be sure to talk to your doctor right away. They may be able to lower your dose or switch to another medication that won’t impact your mood.
What you can do if you’re feeling depressed.
Stay connected. This one is tough if you are not seeing loved ones often because of the pandemic. But if you’re feeling depressed it will really help you to stay connected. Even if you are feeling like you don’t want to do anything or talk to anybody —It’s time to pick up the phone.
Feeling isolated makes depression worse. Start by making daily calls to loved ones or neighbours. Maybe there’s a way to set up video chats online.
Laughter really is the best medicine! Create opportunities to laugh. Laughter has a real way of boosting your mood. So when you’re on a call with a loved one be sure to swap humorous stories and jokes. Reminisce about a silly old memory with them. You can also watch a comedy, or read a funny book. Just have a laugh!
Focus on what you can still do. Maybe you’re feeling frustrated that you’re not able to do what you once could. Or maybe you’re having negative ideas about growing older and feeling less self-confident. Instead of focusing on what you used to do, try focusing on the things you can do now.
Learn a new skill. We bet there is something that you’ve always wanted to learn. Is it a musical instrument, a foreign language, or something else? Learning not only adds meaning and joy to life but can also help to maintain your brain health. You can begin by reading a book or watching how-to videos online. We also would bet that you have amazing stories to tell how about writing your memoirs. OR maybe learn to paint, or take up a new craft. The possibilities are only limited by your imagination.
Move your body. Did you know that taking a short walk around the block, can boost your mood for the next two hours? Taking a few small steps every day, your depression symptoms will begin to ease and you’ll find yourself feeling more energetic and hopeful again.
Eat right. Adjusting your eating habits can help you deal with the symptoms of depression. Start by cutting back on sugar and refined carbs. Try to focus your meals on quality protein, complex carbs, and those healthy fats which will leave you satisfied and emotionally balanced.
Eat regularly. Don’t go too long without eating! Not eating regularly can make your mood worse, making you tired and irritable, so be sure to do your best to eat something at least every 3-4 hours.
Good sleep hygiene. Sadly, many older adults struggle with sleep issues such as insomnia. But not getting enough sleep can make depression worse. It’s important to get anywhere from 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night. Set a routine for yourself to follow each night, and make sure you go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day.
Of course, when you’re depressed, taking action and putting self-help steps into action can feel almost impossible. It can be overwhelming even just thinking about the things you should do to feel better.
Talk to your Doctor. Sometimes all the best self-help tips just aren’t enough and you may find you need more help shaking the depression. Don’t hesitate to talk to your healthcare team about how you’re feeling. They can off you many additional tips and medications to help you beat depression.
Contact CANES. Did you know we have a service for older adults and seniors with health challenges like depression, anxiety, or other mental health concerns?
It’s our Intensive Seniors Community Team and you can learn more about it by here: https://www.canes.on.ca/services/intensive-seniors-community-team