When Mom is determined to live independently in spite of advancing age, you can't help but worry about her well-being. Reducing electrical, fire, and trip-and-fall hazards in her residence can reassure you about her physical safety. Making sure she has reliable transportation to the doctor or medical specialists when necessary increases your confidence in her health care. But unlike these tangible acts, combating the potential for depressive symptoms and chronic depression can be elusive. Declining health, a narrowing social circle with fewer interactions and activities, and loneliness contribute to elderly depression, now considered a public health issue. If you suspect depression has become an problem for your parent, do not hesitate to seek medical evaluation and treatment. In the meantime, there are several positive contributions you can make to promote your mom's (or dad's) good mental health.
Pets—for Friendly Four-Legged Companionship
A cat or dog will be a faithful friend for your mom or dad. Beyond combating the loneliness that can lead to depression, pets have other healthy benefits. The Pets for the Elderly Foundation, which matches up dogs and cats from shelters with older owners, notes that animals lift seniors' spirits and help them remain active. Walking the dog, playing with the cat, and caring for the pet's daily needs will keep your parent moving and engaged with a living, breathing creature that returns love and affection. Show your support of your parent's pet ownership by
- making sure the animal has it's annual veterinary appointments and vaccinations and that licenses, if needed, are kept up to date;
- giving gift certificates for routine grooming;
- including a little toy or treat gift for the pet during the holidays.
Plants—for Stress-Busting Beauty
A few lush, green plants in the house serve as mood enhancers. While they don't require the same level of interaction as a pet, the watering, fertilizing, and pruning necessary for houseplants to thrive can add purpose to life for a senior living solo. There is a positive impact on health and well-being from simply having visual contact with plants in a home environment. Houseplants also serve as natural air fresheners and brighten the indoor atmosphere—especially during winter months when your parent might not get outdoors often. Give practical support to your elderly parent's green thumb efforts by
- providing potting soil, pretty containers, and hand tools to make plant care easy;
- gifting houseplants such as peace lily, florist's chrysanthemum, and Boston fern to keep the air fresh and clean;
- setting up a windowsill herb garden with parsley, chives, and thyme to snip for food garnishes.
People—for Practical, Professional Living Assistance
Perhaps the most important thing you can do to combat depression is to arrange for personal interaction and support. Assisted living services offer a range of choices, from caregivers who help with chores to nursing assistants who do health checks and provide light medical care. These professionals are trained to observe for depression symptoms and can alert you when action is recommended to get treatment. They might see that the houseplants are dry and withered from lack of care, for example, even if your parent is stoic and doesn't give visible cues of depression. Facilitate professional interaction by
- arranging for regular visits from a helper who can drive your parent to the grocery store, medical appointments, and perhaps also to church or other social activities;
- organizing for a more specialized technician to come in if your parent has diabetes or other conditions that need monitoring and treatment;
- setting up a visiting nurse schedule if your parent requires professional care while recovering from an illness or surgery or if they require treatments that only a registered or licensed individual is qualified to provide.
With a combination of fun, beautiful, and practical support measures, you'll be a strong advocate for your independent parent's continued mental health and overall well-being. For further information, contact a representative from a service like In Your Home Care.