Is It Depression, Or Just The Blues?


Is It Depression, Or Just The Blues?

There are many factors that can cause depression. Moving from an independent setting to managed care is a big step, and despite the best efforts of staff and family members, the change of circumstance can bring on a strong case of the blues. Seniors are also more prone to experience the loss of close friends or family members (due to age and illness), deal with chronic pain, and be faced with some loss of independence and mobility. A period of adjustment is to be expected, but if those blues stick around, depression could be to blame. Depression differs from sadness in that it is persistent, long-lasting, and can be far more than just a state of mind.

There are many clues that a person may be suffering from depression. Some of the most obvious are a loss of interest in activities, lethargy, and a general disinterest in things going on around the person. Depressions symptoms are long-lasting and strong enough to interfere w/ daily life. Take a moment and get to Know the signs:

How is depression different from general sadness or grief? It’s more serious. Don’t assume a depressed person can or will snap out of it. As a friend or caregiver, it’s up to you to intervene and be proactive. Depression can affect a person’s immunity, stress body systems, and cause physical pain. Unfortunately, depression is still misunderstood by many people, and carries a strong negative stigma. People are taught to hide their feelings and mask symptoms, so it can be hard to address the issue before it becomes severe and interferes with a person’s daily functioning.

As a caregiver, you might need to go above and beyond to help a resident cope with depression. It’s not so simple as telling someone to cheer up and smile. In fact, that can be one of the most frustrating and insulting things you can say. What can you do? If possible, involve the resident’s family or friends. A depressed person is often too down to ask for help or realize how far his or her condition has progressed. Support from friends and family can help a person pull out of the crippling sadness and start to participate in social activities again. If a person in your care makes any mention of suicide, seek help from your facility’s social worker, or the resident’s doctor, immediately. Even without the risk of suicide, it is essential that family members, a social worker, or a doctor be alerted to the resident’s condition.

Treatment options

In many cases, simply getting the depressed person out of isolation and into social activities can make a big difference. The change of scenery from a residential room to a facility’s common areas (or outdoors, if possible) can pull a person out of dwelling on sadness. Group therapy and support can make a difference. Cognitive or “talk” therapy is a common first step in addressing depression. In Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), the depressed person is taught how to break the cycle of negative thoughts and learns coping skills. Sometimes it’s enough to talk with a family member or trusted friend, but it might be beneficial to bring in a professional counselor. Your facility’s Social Service Designee should be able to arrange for counseling or therapy, if it’s needed.

If a resident has a religious affiliation, it could help to bring in members of that person’s faith to visit or pray with them, or make it possible for the resident to attend religious services with others of the same faith. Fellowship is a strong way to combat the loneliness and isolation that can lead to depression.

Some medications can cause or exacerbate depression, so get in touch with the resident’s doctor, or the person overseeing his or her care, and ask them to review medications for possible negative interactions or side effects. Hormonal issues could also be to blame, so bring up that possible cause when speaking with the doctor.

No matter what the causes, it’s important to take depression seriously, and learn to spot the signs before they get out of control. Even though a person’s reasons for being sad might sound silly or petty to you, please remember that they are significant to the depressed person and should be respected. Try not to judge, and do what you can to be a good listener and get the resident the help he or she needs.

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