How to Help an Elderly Person with Depression: Tips for Family

Written by Guest Author, Holly Clark, Community Manager at

Remind yourself that it is possible to overcome depression in the later years. Elderly people can get help to manage their fears, thus living a more stabilized life. In addition to the mind being affected by depression, it also manifests itself physically and spiritually. Although families and doctors can take steps to reduce or eliminate the depression, it will also come back on the individual, who needs to determine that he or she will overcome it.

It is important that the elderly person’s needs are met. Often, depression can be managed with self-help activities. With energy and concentration being taken away from the person with depression, it is usually difficult for them to figure out how to help themselves. Therefore, instead of seeing the person as self-centered, understand you are probably looking at a case of geriatric depression. Start by spending time, showing the individual how he or she can get dressed alone, feed him or herself, and do simple tasks to gain back some level of independence.

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There is also the area of physical and biological needs. For example, depression in elderly person often shows as, headaches, diarrhea, stomachaches or constipation. So long as the person has been checked by a medical specialist and nothing wrong has been found, you can start changing the diet to a healthier one, work with the individual to get regular exercise, or just take that person out for a walk, regardless of if it’s in a wheelchair. The aim is to enhance a person’s mental health by meeting physical needs.

Of course, safety is always a number one concern when dealing with depression. Many times, a depressed person is so self-absorbed, he or she is not paying close attention to the environment and potential hazards. Therefore, make sure the person has a walker or wheelchair if needed, that he or she has proper help with getting up or walking, and that the area is clear of clutter that could cause an accidental fall.

You will also find that depression in the elderly is seen when a move happens into a nursing home and personal belongings have to be downsized. With this in mind, find a home in which you can bring items in, such as, figurines, flowers, pictures, bedspreads, chairs, pillows, and any other favorites. By creating such a home friendly environment the individual will have lesser bouts of depression, being surrounded by things that one knows.

Finally, make sure you help boost the individual’s self-esteem. Depression in the elderly typically makes the person feel inadequate as if there is nothing for which to live. You usually see this person having negative impressions of self, thinking that he or she is worthless. Take time to talk about achievements, ask for advice, and make the person feel as if he or she is needed and wanted. Soon, the depression levels will decrease, allowing the individual to have a more, normal existence.

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