Understanding depression and tips on how to cope

Having a bad day is common, but for some, feelings of sadness can last longer than 24 hours; in fact, it can last for days, weeks or even months. These feelings may be diagnosed as depression, a mental illness which can have negative effects on how individuals handle normal day-to-day activities. No matter at what age someone becomes depressed, it is a medical condition that requires attention and treatment. According to the Mood Disorders Association of Ontario, the current rate of depression in Canadians over the age of 65 is under 2 per cent. However, that number rises between 10 and 15 per cent when it comes to seniors who are living with more than one symptom of depression.

Here are some common symptoms and self-help methods that may help treat the illness in addition to a family physician’s recommendations.

Common signs and symptoms
Depression in seniors can be difficult to pinpoint as the mental illness can share many symptoms with other medical conditions common among older adults. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, consider scheduling an appointment with your doctor:

  • Low energy at all times
  • Severe agitation
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Insomnia
  • Changes in weight—lost or gained.
  • Low self-esteem
  • A frequent negative mood
  • Lost interest in hobbies that were once loved

According to the Canadian Psychological Association, common risk factors for depression in seniors include chronic health problems, loss of a loved one, loneliness, lack of support and perceived loss of independence.

DepressionSelf-help treatment methods
As a senior living with depression, you may not want to spend time with others or participate in any type of activity, but—as isolation and inactivity can make depression worse—it’s important not to withdraw from social situations. According to Helpguide, finding new things to enjoy, adapting to change and staying physically and socially active are all excellent, natural ways to cope with depression. Consider the following self-help treatment methods:

Get moving - Exercise is great for the body, but it’s also excellent for the mind, as it can help relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression by pumping endorphins throughout your body. Spend more time at the fitness center or simply walk around your retirement community more often. This may also result in more social interaction with peers and staff.

Stay social - Reaching out to others may not seem desirable when you’re feeling down, but connecting with others is a great effort you can make to help combat your depression. Face-to-face communication with peers gives you a second perspective that can help cheer you up in a time of need. Consider asking your family members to schedule visits once a week and head to the recreation room on other days. There, you can meet new people who have the same hobbies and interests as you.

Other great ways to prevent feelings of depression include volunteering your time, taking care of a furry friend such as a dog, or pursuing opportunities for laughter—they’ll all go a long way. Consult your doctor if you’re interested in learning about more ways to combat feelings of depression both on your own and with the support of others.