Ask the Expert: Helping Your Senior Beat Depression

Dear Edward:

My parents were married for almost 60 years before my father passed away last year. My mother is really struggling. I think her grief has turned into a true case of depression. I’m trying to find ways to help her through this, but I’m not having much success.

I know you help seniors through challenging times every day. Do you have any advice for me?

Diane

Dear Diane:

The loss of a spouse—especially after such a long marriage—is difficult to overcome. I’m sure it is equally difficult for you to watch your mother struggle.

While it is common for a senior who has lost a spouse to spend more time alone, it is important to help seniors avoid becoming isolated. We now know isolation is considered to be a serious health risk for older adults. It contributes to a variety of problems ranging from high blood pressure and obesity to diabetes.

Here are a few suggestions I think might be of help:

  • Explore the opportunities for her to get involved in local community organizations. It might a local senior center or a seniors group at her church or synagogue. Look for events and activities that are geared toward older adults. She will likely find peers among those groups who have also lost a spouse.
  • Help her get up to speed on social media. If you or one of her grandchildren can assist her in setting up a Facebook page, she may be able to connect with family and old friends she has lost touch with over the years.
  • Volunteering is another great way to overcome the blues. There are proven health benefits for older adults who volunteer including lower incidence of depression. Hands-on Central Ohio and Volunteer Match are two organizations you and your mother can use to find a volunteer opportunity near her home.
  • If your mother is able to care for a pet and can afford the expense, consider adopting an older dog or cat from a local shelter. Older animals often have a long wait before they are adopted, but can be the ideal companion for a senior.

My final piece of advice is to seek professional help if you are concerned your mother doesn’t seem to be finding her way through her grief. It isn’t unusual to need a little professional help to get through such a life-changing experience.

I’m sending my very best wishes to you, Diane. I hope your mother’s health and well-being turn around soon!

Edward Beatrice, Administrator