Clinical depression isn't something that goes away on its own. It requires professional treatment. For most people, depression will get better with treatment, such as counseling, medicine, or a combination of both. There is no need to suffer
Once your parent decides to get medical advice, start with the family doctor. The doctor should check to see if the depression could be caused by a health problem (such as hypothyroidism or vitamin B12 deficiency) or a medicine your elderly parent is taking. After a complete exam, the doctor may suggest that your parent talk to a mental health worker, such as a social worker, mental health counselor, psychologist, or psychiatrist. Doctors specially trained to treat depression in older people are called geriatric psychiatrists. Make the most of a doctor visit, by ensuring your parent receives a full physical exam.
Everyone needs someone to talk to. A mental health expert, such as a counselor or psychologist, can often treat your parent's depression successfully. Different therapies seem to work for different people. For instance, support groups can provide new coping skills or social support if your parent is dealing with a major life change. Several kinds of talk therapies are useful as well. One method might help give you a more positive outlook on life. If your parent is always thinking about the sad things in his or her life or focusing on what they may have lost might have led to depression. Another method works to improve relations with others to give your parent more hope about the future.
Antidepressant drugs (medicine to treat depression) can also help by improving mood, sleep, appetite, and concentration. There are several types of antidepressants available.
Many doctors start by prescribing an SSRI, such as Citalopram (Celexa), Escitalopram (Lexapro), Fluoxetine (Prozac), Fluvoxamine (Luvox), Paroxetine (Paxil) and Sertraline (Zoloft). Another class of antidepressants are Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). SNRIs include: Venlafaxine (Effexor), Desvenlafaxine (Pristiq), and Duloxetine (Cymbalta).
Some of these medicines can take up to 12 weeks before they begin to work. In addition, some antidepressants can cause unwanted side effects, although newer medicines have fewer side effects. To avoid this problem, the doctor needs to know about all prescribed and over-the-counter medications, vitamins, or herbal supplements your parent is taking. The doctor should also be aware of any other physical problems your parent has.
Older people who are depressed can gain mental as well as physical benefits from mild exercise like walking outdoors or in shopping malls. Gardening, dancing, and swimming are other good forms of exercise. Being physically fit and eating a balanced diet may help avoid illnesses that can bring on disability or depression.
Encourage your parent to develop a hobby. Hobbies may help keep his or her mind and body active. Whether it's golf, a game of cards with friends, or watching a video with grandkids, having things to do keeps negative thoughts at bay. Also make sure your parent stays in touch with family, and encourage them to talk to a trusted family member or friend when they feel sad.
With treatment, most people will find that positive thoughts will gradually replace the negative thoughts that resulted from depression. Expect your parent's mood to improve slowly. Feeling better takes time. But it can happen.