A common challenge among many senior adults is the ability to maintain their emotional health while in assisted living. Seniors who become part of assisted living communities may feel isolated – particularly from their adult children and other loved ones. Here’s how adult children can help their senior parents stave off depression and emotional decline.
Be generous with your attention/time
Stay connected with your parent any way you can. In-person visits, trips and other outings, telephone conversations, exchanges through email and Facebook, and video sessions via Skype or FaceTime help maintain familial bonds as well as a senior’s healthy outlook on life.
Encourage involvement in community activities
If your senior parent is physically and cognitively healthy, encourage him or her to be a part of the community. Volunteerism is one activity that benefits society at large as well as the volunteer. Did you know that more than 26 million American seniors engage in volunteering?
Help your parent maintain social interaction with others
Sustaining ties outside the home is just as important as maintaining a relationship with family members. Interaction with friends both old and new, particularly those of roughly the same age, provides common ground that may lead to a deeper level of connectivity. Encourage your parent to join a book or gardening club, take a cooking or foreign-language class, or join a gym or fitness center.
Assist in finding professional help
Sometimes the best way to handle depression is with the help of a medical practitioner. Treatment can take the following forms:
- Anti-depressive drugs such as Prozac
- Alternative medicine such as omega-3 fatty acids and St. John’s wort
- Counseling and related therapy, including religious and peer counseling, and support groups
According to the Geriatric Mental Health Foundation, depression is a treatable medical illness that impacts more than six million of the more than 40 million Americans over age 65. In addition, an estimated six percent of people ages 65 and older in a given year, or approximately two million individuals in this age group, have a diagnosable depressive illness.
Depression can manifest itself in numerous ways, including:
- Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
- Withdrawing from regular social activities
- Pacing and fidgeting
- Feeling worthless or helpless
- Weight/appearance changes or frequent tearfulness
- Thoughts of suicide or death
Your senior parent needs you to be keenly aware of his or her emotional state after she’s moved to an assisted living community. To ensure well-being, strive to be as accessible – and supportive – as you can.