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Elderly depression side effect of the pandemic

My Opinion
Elderly depression side effect of the pandemic Elderly depression side effect of the pandemic
Carol Applegate, Guest Writer

Experts say depression is rising as the pandemic lingers and older Hoosiers are especially vulnerable. The need to social distance and the cancellation of numerous events and in-person visits is contributing to loneliness and isolation among the older population.

I see depression often in the elderly as part of my life care planning and elder law practice. I’m also a registered nurse and trained to recognize the signs.

Some older adults will admit to feelings of overall sadness, decreased energy and a lack of motivation that signal depression. However, others will complain of physical symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, difficulty sleeping and trouble concentrating.

If you or a loved one are experiencing feelings of hopelessness or thoughts of self-harm, I urge you to reach out immediately to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for those in acute distress at 1-800-273-8255.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness has compiled a really helpful guide to staying connected to help fight depression during the COVID-19 pandemic. It includes tips on meditation, giving back to others to help increase joy and offers ways of finding support. Officials say it is important to get back to basics during this time of anxiety and uncertainty. Focus on exercise, eating well and keeping a regular schedule.

If you want to help a loved one who is struggling and you can’t be there in person, there is a simple step you can take to help: send a letter. Research shows that written support can have a significant impact on the recipient’s mental health.

You can also create a feeling of companionship by acknowledging this situation is difficult. Don’t try to sugar coat it. Instead, offer to check in regularly with the struggling person by phone then do it at the set date and time. Remind them they’ve coped with adversity in the past and discuss past techniques they used that might help now. Encourage them to reach out to a counselor, pastor, rabbi or spiritual adviser.

If you are worried that a loved one in assisted living or a nursing home is struggling with depression, ask for a referral to a psychologist or social worker.

We all need a feeling of connection right now, no matter our age. Explore ways to connect by phone or plan a visit outside where everyone wears a mask. Social distancing doesn’t have to equal isolation and depression.

Editor’s note: Carol Applegate is an elder law attorney and registered nurse who practices law and offers life care planning for Applegate & Dillman Elder Law which has three Indianapolis-area locations.