When we think about aging, most of us worry about physical problems like heart trouble or a bad hip. However, it’s crucial that we not overlook the importance of staying on top of mental health issues.
Joe Wilmoth, an associate professor in the MSU School of Human Sciences and researcher with the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, says the lifestyle changes that older people often experience can trigger depression. Financial challenges, the death of loved ones, increased physical limitations, and loneliness can all play a role in a senior’s mental health.
“As we get older, we often have to deal with a variety of chronic diseases,” he said. “These can range from hearing loss, failing eyesight, joint problems, thyroid disorders and low testosterone levels to poor immune system responses, type 2 diabetes, heart problems, and the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Depression is also related to stress, a lack of exercise, inadequate sleep, alcohol consumption, medications, and poor nutrition.”
Family members and caretakers can help seniors by learning how to recognize early signs of depression. These include:
- A change of appetite and sleep patterns
- Change in daily living activities
- Lack of energy, motivation, or interest in daily activities
- Poor concentration
- Difficulty making decisions.
- Talk of hurting themselves or suicide
Mild forms of depression often respond to regular exercise, a proper diet, and engaging in enjoyable activities like playing with a pet or spending time with loved ones. However, more serious issues will require a combination of talk therapy and medication.