Dear Doug: Senior Depression
Q: My mom has been on her own since my dad passed away about a decade ago. She dealt with it reasonably well and even dated for a while.
Now she's not doing so well. She's sad all the time and has retreated from her regular activities. Our family is pretty sure she's depressed.
What are the best ways to address this? Is it natural, or can we help?
A: Depression usually doesn't go away on its own. It's time to make a plan.
Before anything else, look to the basics. Diet, sleep and physical activity all play a huge role in mood regulation. Nudge your mom toward healthy choices, and see if there is a difference.
Some seniors worry because they don't get a full night's rest anymore. Keep in mind that seniors need less sleep because of their activity levels. Six or seven hours of sleep per night may be more natural than a full eight.
Once you've considered these, it's time to think about other lifestyle changes.
Loneliness is another huge factor for senior depression. Regular check-ins will help your mom feel important. You don't have to talk about anything serious; just share what's going on in your life!
Encourage her to get out there and spend time with other people. It's not healthy to be alone all the time.
If these methods don't help, you might want to suggest talk therapy or other professional help.