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Stave off depression in seniors by using the three Cs of caregiving

Depression, a serious mental health condition that can strike at any age, is a medical condition that interferes with daily life and normal functioning. Unfortunately, many people assume depression is just part of aging. This is not true.

According to the National Institute on Aging, “Depression is a common problem among older adults, but it is NOT a normal part of aging. In fact, studies show that most older adults feel satisfied with their lives, despite having more illnesses or physical problems. However, important life changes that happen as we get older may cause feelings of uneasiness, stress, and sadness.”  

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says, “Some estimates of major depression in older people living in the community range from less than 1% to about 5% but rise to 13.5% in those who require home healthcare and to 11.5% in older hospital patients.”

So what can you do to help the senior in your care live an emotionally healthy life? Start by providing the three Cs of caregiving.

Caring – Though it might sound obvious, caregiving requires you sincerely care about the well-being of the person who has been entrusted to you. Caregiving isn’t a business transaction. It’s an experience shared between humans – the caregiver and the care recipient. Attitude and personality are paramount. People are affected by the people around them, and there is no limit to the power of positivity. When you care enough to offer a positive experience, you let the senior in your life know they have value. This all contributes to increased self-esteem, which helps keep depression at bay.  Senior issues writer Anne-Marie Botek says, “Confidence that is supported by high self-esteem has long been touted as a vital component of living a happy life and having fulfilling interpersonal relationships. But a positive sense of self-worth may also stave off some of the negative effects of aging, according to two new studies.”

Comfort – If you’ve ever been uncomfortable physically or emotionally for longer than a few minutes, you know how it can affect everything, including your mood. A successful caregiver will be intuitive enough to understand when the senior in their care is uncomfortable and will know what to do about it. Sometimes it’s the simple things that make the biggest difference. For example, Michelle Santos, who helped care for her 104-year-old, bedridden grandmother, said doing basic things like brushing her grandmother’s hair and doing her nails while talking softly about how beautiful she was made her grandmother smile. “My mom said she hadn’t smiled in a long time,” Santos said. “Even at that late age, simple acts of providing comfort made a difference.”

Confidence – Once seniors are cared for and comfortable, with your encouragement, they tend to become more confident in their ability to experience life in a positive way and maintain some sense of independence. Confidence is a powerful weapon again depression. It is tied to self-esteem. Confident seniors are more willing to step outside their comfort zone and try new things, even simple activities like going for a walk after a period of immobility. According to SeniorCaring, “…lack of balance confidence is an issue that can keep seniors from regaining mobility and independence. By helping your loved one build their confidence, you may help them regain mobility and independence,” especially if there has been a fall.

It is important to remember that depression is a serious illness. If the senior in your care exhibit symptoms of depression, or if you have any uncertainties about their mental health, consult a medical professional immediately.

This post is sponsored by Home Instead Senior Care, serving Prince William and Fauquier counties.

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