This is one of those questions that really has no good answer. Statistically, depression, ranging from mild to chronic, affects approximately 40% of nursing home residents, according to the American Geriatrics Society.
Despite its prevalence, few elders in nursing homes will openly admit that they are depressed. That means in many cases, the family must look for the warning signs, which can be subtle.
The good news is that if depression is brought on psychologically, and there are ways of offsetting the symptoms. Here are some ways to prevent these symptoms from manifesting themselves:
- Encourage social interaction. Being around others with similar interests and life experiences is therapeutic.
- Help your loved one find a hobby. Boredom and lack of purpose in life can contribute to depression. A hobby like gardening or playing cards is stimulating, keeps the brain active and encourages interactions with like-minded people.
- Talk openly. Your loved one may want to talk, but may not know how to start the conversation. Bring up emotional topics and open the door for sharing feelings, but don’t force it. Let your parent know it’s okay to talk to someone else besides you if it’s more comfortable, such as a therapist, a nurse with whom a special bond has been formed or a neighbor who has become a trusted friend.
- Enhance the environment. Add personal touches like plants, favorite keepsakes, comfortable furniture and family photos — whatever makes the space feel like home.
- Encourage exercise. Even mild exercise like walking has psychological benefits. Even elders who can’t exercise due to physical limitations can go outside and benefit from the fresh air and light.
You might even find that with a little organizing, you can bring your loved one home and incorporate respite care or caregiving and be able to give them a much more family orientated life.