Provide practical daily help. When someone is diagnosed with depression, the doctor may prescribe antidepressant medications and/or psychotherapy. The doctor may also recommend lifestyle changes. You may need to drive her to appointments, remind her to take new medications, help her get out more, or help her make other lifestyle changes. Get her to a professional. Even if a primary care doctor diagnosed the depression, the person may still benefit from seeing a mental health professional. Not all primary care physicians are comfortable treating depression.Provide reassurance. Older adults are often anxious about taking antidepressants, either because of the stigma they associate with such medications or because they're afraid of potential side effects. Assure the person in your care that the doctor can work with her to find the medication that's most effective with the least-severe side effects.
Here are some other things you can do to support her:
- Help her stay as physically active as possible. Make sure you talk to her doctor about what activities are appropriate before beginning any exercise program. Find activities you can do together, such as a morning walk around the neighborhood. Exposure to sunlight can help break the cycle of sleeping during the day that many depressed people fall into.
- Structure the day around activities that give her pleasure and a sense of purpose. For example, meet friends for lunch or enjoy a leisurely walk through the mall.
- Join a support group -- for either or both of you. Talking to other people who're struggling with similar issues can be enormously comforting and helpful. It's also a great way to connect with other people her age and caregivers.
If you've tried everything you can and nothing seems to help, remember it's not all up to you. In the end, it's really the responsibility of the person suffering from depression to get help for herself. If she won't talk to her doctor or comply with treatment, you can't make her do it. Keep offering support and provide positive reinforcement when she takes those difficult steps toward recovery.If feelings of guilt or sadness about the situation overwhelm you, you may need help coming to terms with the fact that your loved one isn't going to get help. Ask your own doctor for information about support groups and other resources to help you manage your own feelings.
About the Author
Stephanie Trelogan is Senior Editor of the Heart, Stroke, and Depression channels. Older people in Stephanie's family have coped with a variety of stroke- and heart-related conditions, and several family members, including Stephanie, have struggled with depression.
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