Depression is one of the most common mental health disorders in America, and it can affect people of any age. That said, seniors in the U.S. are most susceptible to depression.
As people age, they often find their friend circles shrink, family responsibilities dwindle, and work prospects decrease even before hitting retirement age. The combination of these and other factors often make elderly Americans susceptible to loneliness and a sense of lost purpose, which can, in turn, lead to depression.
Common Causes of Depression in Seniors
The aging process comes with its own challenges, and it’s normal for people to experience grief when their friends die or frustration when they become unable to perform tasks for themselves. Depression, however, is not a normal part of healthy aging. This mood disorder is a serious mental illness that can impact people’s motivation and ability to care for themselves.
While mental health experts and researchers agree that there is no one cause of depression, there are many factors that can place seniors at a higher risk. Risk factors for major depression include:
- Genetic susceptibility
- Certain medications
- Substance abuse
- Lack of social support
- Other physical or mental health problems
- Stressful life events
- Loss of loved ones
- Chronic pain conditions
- And others
It’s important to remember that depression is a serious mental illness and should be treated like any other health problem. No one chooses to be depressed, but there are treatments that will benefit any senior struggling with the problems described above.
The Role of Assisted Living Communities
For seniors who are struggling to maintain their mental health in the face of life’s many problems, moving to assisted living homes is a great way to combat loneliness, maintain independence, and regain a sense of purpose. Senior living communities can also offer significant benefits.
A Feeling of Belonging
Feeling like a part of something bigger than oneself can offer a sense of purpose. People who feel needed by and connected to others tend to experience lower rates of depression. Assisted living communities provide the sense of friendship and belonging that is often lacking in older Americans’ lives.
Renewed Sense of Purpose
Every person fulfills different roles throughout their life, many of which confer a sense of purpose or meaning. Taking part in shared life and learning activities such as parenting children, coaching youth sports, volunteering, or just spending time with friends helps to keep depression at bay. Seniors often lose this sense of purpose, but moving to a senior care community makes it possible to imbue life with new meaning by learning new skills, joining clubs, and making new friends.
Increased Safety and Independence
Seniors who move to assisted living won’t have to worry about driving to doctors’ appointments, remembering to take medications as prescribed, or slipping and falling at home. There will be staff members available to help residents with their daily tasks and ensure everyone is safe and feels secure. This can ease stress and alleviate some of the burdens associated with senior depression.
Treatment Options for Seniors With Depression
Just transitioning to assisted living or a memory care center may not be enough to alleviate symptoms of clinical depression. That takes professional help. Good options for seniors include psychotherapy or counseling, group therapy, reminiscence therapy, and the targeted use of antidepressant medications such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, more commonly known as SSRIs.
Seniors struggling with depression often find themselves feeling isolated and alone, which creates a vicious cycle. Depression makes it more difficult to perform daily tasks, socialize, engage in hobbies, cook nutritious food, and get sufficient exercise. The lack of these activities then worsens depression.
Depression frequently leaves people of any age feeling hopeless and lost, and senior citizens struggling to manage their depression are not alone. Coming up with an effective treatment plan that includes moving to assisted living often requires the help of doctors, counselors, and family members, but it will help. The first step is to reach out to a loved one or a primary care physician for help.
Quality of Life Matters
For seniors aging in place in their family homes, even simple tasks like going shopping or getting together with friends can feel overwhelming, which can lead to loneliness and depression. Moving to an assisted living community in Anaheim, CA means embracing a vibrant social life and gaining access to all the services required to maintain independence in a new home. At Arbor Palms of Anaheim, we’re attentive to all of our residents’ needs, both material and emotional. Call (714) 821-9660 to schedule a tour.