Elodie is going to be talking about a quite overlooked demographic, the elderly, and how depression affects the elderly.
The elderly are often an ignored segment of our society, and they’re dealing with a lot.
They’re dealing sometimes with loss of friends, isolation from family, physical changes, physical illnesses, and that is a lot to take on. So when you get older, you’re at a greater risk for physical illnesses that can be aggravated by your depression.
For example, if you have cardiovascular disease, you’re at a greater risk for depression. If you have depression and you’re dealing with cardiovascular disease, it’s harder to fight that disease. So that’s a whole cycle that makes it difficult as well.
Secondly is that those who live in nursing homes are actually at a greater risk for depression as well. And the elderly who are in their 80’s are twice as likely to die by suicide than the general population.
Ways to Combat Elderly Depression
So how do we support this elderly population? Firstly, what we want to do is target loneliness.
Loneliness is a big issue in the elderly community. We want to spend time with people whether that’s your grandparents, your great aunts, and uncles or even someone that you don’t know while volunteering at a nursing home. Calling someone consistently is very important.
We Want to Destigmatize Depression
Sometimes the elderly grew up in an era where depression isn’t real or it doesn’t exist or it’s not important. So maybe changing our language to adapt to that, even maybe avoiding the term depression, so that they’re more open to finding solutions to deal with that.
We Don’t Want to Project Our Own Experiences
We don’t want to tell someone how to deal with depression because in the elderly population it looks a little bit different. And also medication may not always be an option because they’re already on medications which can be aggravated if they increase medications. So things like half doses of medication are sometimes something that the elderly have to do.
So it’s very important that we are mindful of our elderly population and don’t want to just attribute certain things to aging. Being like, “Oh, that’s just a grumpy old man” stereotype, for example.
If someone is being lethargic or removed or feeling sad, it may be depression and not just a side effect of their medication. So we want to be open to that as a possibility.