Jennifer Meagher RN is the owner of Senior Life LLC, Advocates and Consultants. Meagher founded and oversees the Better Business Partners Serving Seniors. She is on the Alzheimer’s Advocacy Committee and has specialized in geriatrics since 1998. She is called on by doctors, attorneys, and financial advisors to care for their clients and their families. Contact Jennifer at www.SeniorLifeGCM.com.
DEPRESSION AND THE ELDERLY: GOOD THINGS TO KNOW
- Elders are at high risk of depression related to life losses: loved ones, driving, the family home, mobility etc.
- Weakness and deconditioning feels like depression. If your loved one isn’t moving about much, talk to the doctor about getting an order for physical therapy. It will take some time for this to help. If it isn’t enough, pursue a discussion about depression with the doctor.
- Pain and/or poor sleep can exacerbate depressive symptoms.
- Depression can cause or increase confusion.
- Anxiety often comes hand in hand with depression. (Anti-depressants have a calming effect.)
Common symptoms of depression include:
1. Very noticeable change in sleep pattern.
2. Loss of appetite and weight loss.
3. Lack of interest in previously enjoyed situations.
4. Over-anxiety about perceived or real health changes. Generally this is a daily near constant worry that something is wrong.
5. Noticeable increase in confusion or memory loss at the same time depressive symptoms began.
6. Comments from the elder about not wanting to live.
Attend the next doctor’s appointment with your loved one and gently express all of your concerns.
My mother is in an assisted living. We put her there for socialization. I know my mom is stubborn and can be difficult but we pay a lot of money for her to live there and she sits in her room all day. She doesn’t even go out for meals! My brother and I expect the aides to get her out of her room. Before we moved her in they were all smiles telling us they were good at this and they’d get her to come out. Now they tell us she’s a challenge and they can’t “make her” come out of her room. When we talked to them about pulling her out of there, they said we would need to give a 30 day notice. How can they hold us to that when they are not providing the service they promised?
Thank you for responding (I hope)
I have seen a fair number of these cases. Both sides of this dispute have valid arguments. You agree your mother is difficult. You knew that going in, and just hoped they had some kind of magic that would make her an agreeable new woman. You hoped your mother would see all the fun she could be having and participate. It is unfortunate that the assisted living representative made it seem certain they could achieve all this. The administration is correct: the staff at assisted living cannot make your mother do anything she refuses. I am worried about your mother. Why does she isolate herself to her room? It is possible she is depressed. It is possible she has always been a hermit. If it is the former, talk with the doctor. If it is the latter, change is extremely unlikely. Here are some recommendations:
1. Family and friends should visit at meal time and join her in the dining hall. Be aware there will be a small fee for the extra meals.
2. Or visit when there is an entertainment being offered which Mom might enjoy and attend together.
3. Befriend a resident who you think might make a good friend for your mother. When you visit, spend a little time with this person. Introduce your mother to him/her and invite the other person to sit with you at meal time or at an entertainment. If your mother makes a friend, she will turn a corner.
4. If these efforts make no headway, take your mother to see her doctor to assess her for depression.
Keep in mind that when an elder moves into a new environment it can take 3-6 months for the elder to get used to this big change and for the staff to learn what will help the elder most. Good luck with this.