There is no doubt that we are living through uncertain times right now. With COVID-19 still circulating during this second half of 2020, we have all been confronted with having to stay home more than we perhaps previously did. Many of us are also dealing with grief over losing loved ones.
The uncertainty and loss that is so prevalent right now can easily lead to severe depression, especially if an individual is already prone. And, our senior loved ones may be suffering from feelings of depression and isolation disproportionately compared to other friends and family members right now. Although depression is not a normal part of aging—and many older adults are typically happier than younger individuals—the ongoing pandemic has been more difficult for seniors.
So, how do you, as a family caregiver, help an older family member with depression or feelings of isolation and grief during these challenging times? Today’s post offers just a few caring tips you can try right away.
Recently, we shared how common technology resources, like video chat apps on our smartphones, tablets, and computers, make keeping in touch from a distance much easier—and even fun! While chatting over Zoom or Facetime isn’t a real substitute for in-person quality time, it can help keep people from feeling isolated and alone. And that may be enough to stave off or ease mild depression.
Of course, sometimes depressed individuals will disengage from social experiences, and then you may have to work a bit harder to help. The key in situations like this is to remain calm and do not approach your loved one with negativity. Lend an ear to really listen to what they are expressing—without judgment or feelings of guilt on your part. Try to have an open and honest conversation about ways to help them feel better, including pursuing professional treatment options.
If your loved one lives alone, you may consider spending some time with them in person, as possible. (Note that in “normal,” non-pandemic times, this tip would be our number one. However, we understand that some people simply are not able to be physically present with loved ones who may be at a higher risk with COVID-19 right now.) When you’re together, you can help them with chores around the house or prepare meals, even if they are reticent to ask for help.
Does your loved one know all the ways they can connect to the broader community from their technology devices? In addition to trying out video chat apps to stay in touch with friends and family, there are a variety of opportunities that technology presents for keeping up with neighbors and community groups, which may prevent feelings of isolation and depression in seniors.
These include (from our most recent blog post):
You have probably experienced the mood-boosting benefits of a great workout for yourself, and exercise can go a long way in helping a family member with depression, too.
Gently encourage your loved one to do appropriate exercise for their fitness level—like taking a short walk outside in the sunshine or trying out a Tai Chi video. You might even join them over Zoom or Facetime for a pandemic-friendly co-workout!
If your family member with depression is struggling and your attempts to draw them out are not being met with success, it may be time to help them pursue medically based treatment options and/or talk therapy with a professional therapist. Before beginning any course of treatment, however, having your loved one go for a wellness exam with their regular primary care doctor is a good idea. After all, depression can be a symptom of other illnesses, such as Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s.
At Homestead Village, memory care and support is an essential service we provide, and we often address topics related to dementia and Alzheimer’s here on the blog. Sadly, one of the early symptoms of dementia can be new depression or mood changes. This is why it is so important for caregivers of older parents and loved ones to help and encourage those they look after to visit their doctor even if they’re just “feeling blue.”
If your family member is experiencing depression due to isolation and living alone—regardless of the current pandemic situation—you may want to talk with them about whether they might like to move to a retirement community campus. While this option may not be right for everyone or every family, it may be worth considering the positive social aspects that retirement community living presents, especially if your loved one has other healthcare needs.
And, here at Homestead Village, we have so many opportunities for socialization for our on-campus residents—even during these times when social distancing takes priority. Just a few of our “socially distanced social activities” include:
Our THRIVE WHERE YOU ARE® philosophy at Homestead Village means that we also offer comprehensive Home Care services in the Lancaster, PA area, so that may also be an avenue to explore for your loved one, as well. Our professional caregivers can come to your family member’s home to offer companionship, help with chores, and more.
We sincerely hope you are staying happy and healthy during this difficult time, whether you are one of our treasured Homestead Village Residents or part of our larger online community of friends and neighbors. If you have questions, please give us a call or contact us through HomesteadVillage.org.