February 10, 2021

older couple on video call - mental health concern

Learn the signs and symptoms of depression to keep senior loved ones safe.

The isolation and fear due to COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on the wellbeing of older adults, with nearly half of seniors surveyed in a Kaiser Family Foundation poll stating that their degree of stress and worry was adversely impacting their own health. And while it still may be risky to visit in person with older adults, it’s crucial to stay in frequent and regular contact, in order to watch out for any changes or signs which might indicate a mental health concern.

According to psychiatrist Judith Feld, MD, MPH, “If a senior usually really enjoys a call with a grandchild, for example, but that seems to have changed, maybe you need to ask more questions, such as, ‘How can we be of help?’”

Additional symptoms and signs of depression to watch for include sleeping issues, lack of appetite, listlessness, and complaints about pain, which surprisingly, is often one of the key symptoms of depression in senior citizens. Make a note of anything that may be out of the ordinary for a senior’s character and personality.

It is crucial to recognize that depression is not simply an unavoidable aspect of aging, and that it can be a serious – but treatable – condition.

Here are a few further strategies to help thoroughly assess an older adult’s psychological state:

  • Keep the conversations natural and organic, without coming across as interrogating. Statements such as, “Tell me what’s been happening in your life recently,” will encourage an older adult to open up much more than, “Tell me what the physician said at your last appointment.” The aim is to be caring yet not condescending, being mindful never to attempt to parent your mother and father.
  • While talking with and seeing the grandchildren on Zoom is a good option to boost an older adult’s mood, make sure to allow for some one-on-one time to talk without children present.
  • Give consideration to what’s going on in the background of your video chats for any further clues, such as whether the house looks neat and well maintained, along with personal hygiene – disheveled, unkempt hair, for example.
  • Consider whether substance abuse may be a factor. A rise in alcohol consumption during the pandemic is happening in individuals of all ages, and can be particularly harmful if there are potential interactions with medications the senior is taking.

In the event that you suspect depression or any other mental health issues in an elderly parent, make sure to get in touch with the doctor right away. Because you are most knowledgeable about the senior, you may be able to pick up on cues that the medical team misses during routine appointments, and it’s crucial to help make your concerns known.

If you have any concerns, contact Continuum, the leaders in senior and dementia care in St. Louis and nearby areas for additional assistance. We’re able to act as your eyes and ears when you are not able to be there in person, and provide a wide selection of customized services to increase socialization and quality of life at home. Call us at (314) 863-9912 to learn more.