Wendy is a senior in her late seventies. In the past year, she has experienced several traumas and tragedies that have affected her in a profound way.
At the beginning of the year, Wendy lost her husband of 45 years. A few months later she battled through a severe case of pneumonia that left her hospitalized for three weeks. All the while, she is living with a condition that is weakening her eyesight. As she is an avid reader, not being able to engage in an activity she loves has her feeling down.
Wendy lives alone; her adult children are at least a three-hour drive away and she does not have a senior care provider checking in on her. When her children speak with her on the phone, she sounds melancholy. When they ask about her day, she typically says she did nothing or didn’t leave the house, which is unusual for their mom. Members of Wendy’s church have called the family with concerns of not seeing her as often. Her family is worried that their mom’s past year, especially with the loss of her husband, has led to loneliness and depression.
What is depression?
More than just sad or melancholy feelings, depression is a mood disorder that requires treatment to manage. It affects how a person feels, thinks, and handles daily activities like eating, sleeping, and socializing. Some view depression as a weakness or character flaw that can be fixed on one’s own without help. This, however, can lead to the depression intensifying for your senior with negative consequences. Depression is a serious illness that can affect seniors when important life changes occur, such as the loss of a loved one, an illness, retirement, or adjustments that happen with age and time.
Helping seniors fight depression.
Fearing their mother was falling into a depression, Wendy’s family contacted a senior care provider to look after their mother in their absence. After spending time with Wendy, the senior care provider, Ava, noticed various signs of depression. Wendy complained of:
- Feeling tired all the time
- Having trouble sleeping
- Having aches, pains, and headaches; and
- Feeling an emptiness that she can never fill
As a senior care practitioner, Ava knew her first goal was to listen to Wendy and understand why she might be depressed. There were a few things she could do to help Wendy out of her depression:
-Provide companionship: Ava recognized that the loss of Wendy’s husband was weighing heavily on her, and without her family in proximity, she felt alone. Ava provided a consistent source of in-person friendship and someone to listen. Though she would not replace her husband, Ava’s presence helped to lift Wendy’s spirits.
-Keeping senior active: Providing Wendy with activities and accompanying her to meet her friends made Wendy feel connected again.
-Make sure eating is routine: Wendy was used to cooking for two, but with the loss of her husband, she stopped cooking altogether. Ava partnered with Wendy, making meals together and in advance so food was readily available. She and Wendy created an eating schedule to make eating a routine again.
-Therapy to help change negative thoughts to positive ones: As Wendy fell deeper into her depression, she felt as if nothing was going well. Ava reminded her that she has overcome much in the past year. She gave Wendy techniques to help her to focus on positive outcomes, further helping her out of depression.
For Wendy, the hiring of a senior care provider was the catalyst out of depression. The senior care provider provided the necessary companionship along with purposeful tactics to help Wendy back to her old self.