Living with depression is difficult, heartbreaking and exhausting for the individual and everyone involved. But thankfully, there are many effective steps and tips that loved ones and caregivers can take to help reduce the senior’s risk of developing dementia.
One of the very best and easiest ways to reduce feelings of depression is to get out of the house more often. While we all need time alone, we are also social creatures by nature, and we all need the strength, inspiration, comfort and love that comes with companionship. The less time you spend cooped up at home alone, the better.
There are lots of social and communal activities that a senior can participate in to help give his/her life more meaning, structure and joy. Join a fun and engaging club, volunteer for a good cause or join a movement that you’re passionate about, plan a day or evening out with friends and family, go to the cinema or a concert, enjoy a shopping spree with their children or grandchildren, etc.
If they can’t go out due to injury, they can invite friends and family over for a party, or if their ill, they can call them via phone, email, zoom, skype or one of the many social media platforms.
Many people would agree that being a pet parent works wonders for your physical, mental and emotional health, and that pets are the most effective therapy. And they are quite right, as there is much truth to this. Owning a pet is immensely beneficial for quite a few reasons- it can increase your lifespan by several years, fills your days and nights with sweet and unconditional love, and always gives you a good reason to get out of bed in the morning. Plus, if they get a dog, they’ll get more exercise with 2-3 daily walks and they’ll socialize with other pet parents as well.
Go ahead and check out your local dog or cat adoption centers or buy a puppy or kitten from a reputable breeder. If they are a dog lover, it’s highly recommended to get a small, friendly, generally calm and easygoing breed that isn’t too expensive or hard to care for, such as a Shih-Tzu or one of the Terrier breeds.
There’s no doubt about it that spending time in the calm and quiet of nature is very helpful for our mood, state of mind and overall wellbeing. So when the weather is sunny and pleasant, they can go to the beach and have a picnic, camp or hike in woodland or forest, go snowboarding or carefully climb a mountain trail with a loved one or best friend.
Apart from the mental and physical benefits of nature, soaking in the sunshine gives you a boost of Vitamin D and serotonin, which is a natural “feel good” chemical that keeps your brain and cognitive function in peak condition.
Remember the rush of joy and excitement that went through you when you learned and mastered a new skill or tried something that you’ve never experienced before? Well seniors too can enjoy new thrills that will make them feel more alive than ever.
You can help them plan a trip to a new city or country, encourage them to try new foods or drinks, learn to play guitar, piano or some other musical instrument, master a new style of dance, improve their singing voice, learn how to play a new game or a new sport, educate themselves on a particular skill, subject or topic that they don’t know much about, etc.
Sharing your thoughts and feelings with others, such as a support group, therapist or another experienced mental health professional can also be very helpful to reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia. As members of the support group share, they will also hear how others are struggling, and thus realize the comforting fact that they are never alone.
They will also make new friends and valuable connections, discover new ways to better cope with their thoughts and feelings, learn how to overcome their depression in better and healthier ways, and realize that people of all ages can suffer from depression, not just seniors.
There is no shame in having depression, and it can be treated. Gently remind your loved one that it’s never too late to make changes, and you’re never too old to feel joy and have fun.
If your loved one is showing signs of suicidal thoughts, it’s extremely important to know that help is always available. Call a nationwide 24/7 suicide prevention hotline right away.