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Loneliness and Depression: What to Look Out for in Your Elderly Relative

Loneliness and depression

Over 6.5 million Americans elderly Americans suffer from depression.

Nobody should have to suffer from loneliness and depression in silence. Our seniors least of all.

Far from showing respect to our elders and repaying them in their old age, it seems we neglect their needs. Learning to watch for the signs is one of the most powerful things we can do to change that.

Here are the signs of loneliness and depression to look for in your elderly relatives.

Persistent Negativity

One of the most obvious signs of a senior feeling lonely and depressed is also one of the most obvious. Sadly, it’s still often ignored as a character trait or age-related “dark” sense of humor.

If your elderly relative seems to exist in a mood of persistent negativity, it could be a sign that something is deeply wrong. They may linger on depressive thoughts or lost loved ones. They may even talk of suicide openly.

This may be true even if that negativity comes out in apparent jokes. Wry and bleak observations about the facts of old age may indicate deeper, underlying fears.

Cries for Help

It’s regrettable, but many people see seniors as a burden. Their cries for help often go unnoticed, dismissed as a fact of getting old.

Much like children, cries for help from the elderly are often ignored as a sign of “acting out”. Our society often stereotypes our seniors in childish terms. States of abnormal emotion may end up dismissed as “temper tantrums” or “sulking”.

As with children, that causes people to disregard deeper underlying concerns and only look at the emotions of the elderly on a superficial level.

But seniors experience the same depth and range of emotion as any adult. An elderly relative’s cries for help may come from a place of concealed depression and loneliness.

Lack of Conversation Points

If your senior relative doesn’t have much to talk about, it could be a sign of underlying issues. A lack of conversation points suggests your relative isn’t engaging with others. Studies show that a lack of social contact causes a decline in mental well-being.

Lack of conversation could also be a sign that a senior relative has stopped engaging with the world around them. This may be a sign of an underlying depression.

It can be tough to break through a wall of non-communication. But the only way to establish the underlying reasons is to talk to your relative on a deeper level. Ask them how they’ve been spending their time and how they feel about recent events. Dig past superficial pleasantries.

You may discover there’s a gap between what they’re experiencing and what they’re saying. If they don’t want to talk about significant life events, that could suggest they’re suffering in silence.

Behavioral Changes

As in younger people, behavioral changes in seniors can point to depression.

One of the most common forms of depression-based behavioral changes is a lack of interest in former pleasures. Your relative may give up their hobby or refuse to engage with activities they enjoy.

It might sound strange, but a sudden upswing of emotion can also be a warning sign. Individuals who have resolved to commit suicide may experience positive emotions as the “relief” sets in.

Behavioral changes can be paradoxical and subtle. They’ll also vary based on the person. The only consistent element is that they deviate from the expected. That’s one reason why it’s vital to retain close ties to your elderly relative, so you’ll spot these signs as they appear.

Lack of Energy

Sometimes depression doesn’t manifest as outwardly negative. Instead, it appears as an absence of thought and energy. Listlessness is as powerful a sign of depression as anger or sadness.

Keep an eye out for signs that your relative has lost interest in their hobbies or relationships. They may want to spend more time in bed. They may sit staring into space and refuse to engage with visitors.

It can be hard to separate these signs from fatigue in the elderly. If you’re in any doubt, try opening a conversation to ask about their deeper feelings. Even if they aren’t suffering from depression, their lack of energy could indicate a physical condition that needs addressing.

Living in the Past

It’s natural for the elderly to spend a lot of time thinking about the past. Many have already lost their closest friends and some quality of life. Happy memories from the past can provide solace.

But there’s a distinction between reminiscing and dwelling. If your relative spends most of their time recounting the past, they might be struggling to come to terms with their life in the present. This could indicate deep-seated loneliness.

One clear sign of this behavior will come up in regular conversation. Your loved one will speak as if you’re not there as they focus on previous events. You’ll be a catalyst for musing about the past, rather than a partner in the conversation.

Life Events

There’s no escaping the reality that many older people outlive their friends, siblings, and even their adult sons and daughters.

Any loss could trigger a sense of depression and loneliness. That goes even for people who seem to handle old age well. We all have that one person we couldn’t bear to part with.

The elderly also have to face the daily reality of worsening health. In many cases, a new health problem will become a permanent feature of their lives. That can cause a spiral of depression, especially if it robs them of one of their pleasures in life.

Keep yourself involved in your relative’s life. That way, you’ll know when they’re going through a difficult time. You can be there to support them and distract them when they’re going through difficult times – or even just lend an ear.

Loneliness and Depression Affects Us All

These signs should help you spot loneliness and depression in elderly relatives. We all need help occasionally, and old age can be a scary and isolating time. Give back to your relatives by keeping an eye out for them as they grow old.

Are you looking for a safe home for an elderly relative? Consider contacting us today.