The Elderly Kind of Blues

Seniors & Mental Health

Mental health is widely considered a new age concept, which is obscure to many members of the aging populations. Older generations ignored mental health issues and were more likely to address physical ailments. In regards to uncomfortable feelings, words such as “melancholy” were likely used to instead of “depression.” Older generations are more likely to express physical versus mental complaints. The avoidance of addressing mental health issues is linked to the extreme stigmatization of mental illness in previous decades. Unfortunately, the ongoing neglect of mental health problems becomes a habit transmitted to younger generations. Children of the aging populations often become caretakers and key advocates for their elder’s well-being, but find themselves covering all the basis of their parent’s health and well-being except mental health. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, more than two million Americans above the age 65 suffer from some form of depression. The elderly population is one of the most vulnerable populations to developing depression due to the experience of significant losses related to death, physical ability, and independence. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, in the United States, less than 5% of older adults living in the community show signs of depression, the percentage rises to over 13% among those who require home health care. Considering the extreme risk and vulnerability of the elderly population choosing home care that addresses the well-being of the whole person is essential. Holistic home-care is a new era approach to senior care that tailors care to enhance one’s social, emotional and physical well-being. Finding senior care that treats the whole person can be like searching for a needle in a haystack in major metropolitan areas such as Washington, DC.  This article will discuss the manifestation of depression among the elderly and the benefits of holistic care.Senior-Care-in-Washington-DC

Aging & Depression

It is common for people to experience depression at various points in their life in response to negative life events such as ended relationships, financial hardship, and interpersonal conflict. However, clinical depression manifest in mood and physical symptoms. Research shows that older adults are more likely to label their “down feelings” as pessimism or helplessness versus depression. Additionally, older versus young adults are less likely to endorse statements related to “feeling down” or “blue.” Older adults commonly display withdraw, less communication, increased sleeping, expressionlessness, and bodily neglect. In older adults, physical symptoms often accompany depression including, coronary heart disease, dementia, diabetes, hyperthyroidism, and cancer. Life events related to loss of loved ones and independence can exacerbate these symptoms. Unlike younger adults, older adults often lose their ability to engage in coping behaviors such as exercise, outings with friends, and travel to alleviate mental and physical symptoms. These circumstances leave older adults not only at greater risk of developing severe depression but little means to mitigate the suffering.

Senior Care & Depression

Nursing home residents and older adults with chronic illness are at greater risk of developing depression. This risk is due in large part to the lack of quality care available in nursing facilities with an unbalanced caregiver to resident ratios. This imbalance diminishes the amount of emotional, social, and physical support available to clients. Many nursing home facilities plan rigorously to design communities that cultivate social and physical well-being, only to find that a large percentage of residents don’t adequately utilize all that the facility has to offer. This underutilization is mainly due to physical and mental declines that limit their access and interest. Senior care facilities in major metropolitan cities such as Washington, DC find themselves overwhelmed and falling short of providing quality care as their mission statements often promise, due to understaffing and short-sighted approaches.

Holistic Care

Holistic care is a growing approach adopted by senior care providers in efforts to improve the quality of life of the aging population. Through this approach, caregivers are trained to assess and address the social, emotional, physical, and in some cases spiritual needs of the client.  Many nursing home facilities have begun to adopt the holistic approach to senior care. However, like any other service industry, quantity often reduces quality. Philia is a home-care agency that adopts the holistic approach to senior care offered only on a 1:1 basis to ensure quality. In addition to assisting with ADL’s, caregivers are trained to incorporate nutritional meal preparation, tailored exercise regimen, activity engagement, and emotional support. Each client’s care plan is designed to enhance their quality of life and well-being in oppose to maintain their present state of health. Holistically trained caregivers are trained to recognize the signs of depression specific to older adults and implement interventions that treat the physical, social, and emotional manifestations. The mind and body are interconnected, each impacting the other dynamically throughout one’s life. Quality senior care addresses both physical and psychological aspects of a person, recognizing that this is the key to total well-being.


Cavanaugh, J., & Blanchard-Fields, F. (2014). Adult development and aging. Nelson Education.

Friedhoff, A. J., Ballenger, J., Bellack, A. S., Carpenter, W. T., Chui, H. C., Dobrof, R., & Merikangas, K. R. (1992). Diagnosis and treatment of depression in late life. JAMA268(8), 1018-1024.

Zarit, S. H., & Zarit, J. M. (2012). Mental disorders in older adults: Fundamentals of assessment and treatment. Guilford Press.

Activities to Keep Elders with Dementia Engaged

Elder Care in McLean VA

Seniors with dementia may begin to withdraw from activities with family members or friends. They may even become uninterested in hobbies Elder-Care-in-McLean-VAthat used to bring them joy. Although they may not feel like it, it is important they continue to socialize and stay active as a way to ward off feelings of isolation or depression.

Not only will these activities help the elder connect with loved ones once again, but they will also stimulate their mind, prolonging the effects of dementia. After the disease begins to progress, they will find it difficult to communicate with others or participate in a conversation. At this point an elder care provider will be needed to assist them with appointments, chores, and anything else they are unable to do by themselves. Try out these activities to slow down the progression of dementia for your loved one.

  • Clean up. This may not seem like a fun activity to most, but can be fulfilling for someone with dementia. Whether they are sweeping, folding clothes, or wiping off the table, being able to complete these tasks alone will give the elder a sense of accomplishment.
  • Garden. Gardening is a great way to get some exercise without even realizing it. However, if it is too difficult for the elder, take them to a botanical garden. Botanical gardens consist of hundreds of acres that are filled with bright, sweet smelling flowers.
  • Work on a puzzle. Puzzles are a great way to get the brain thinking. This may include jigsaw puzzles, crossword puzzles, or word searches. Whatever type of puzzle they prefer will help strengthen their brain and memory.
  • Watch family movies. One way to jog your loved one’s memory is through family videos or photo albums. Watching forgotten memories unfold right before their eyes will help remind them of those happy times.
  • Create a craft. Elders who enjoy knitting or other craft projects will definitely enjoy working on a new craft project with you. Whether you decide to learn a new crafting skill or want to encourage your loved one to pursue a hobby they were once very passionate about, this is an excellent activity to help keep the brain active.
  • Play music. Does your loved one have any favorite songs from their childhood? Playing them will help the elder to remember fond memories associated to those songs.

Caring for someone with dementia can be very challenging. These activities will keep their brain working and slow down the progression of the disease.

If you or an aging loved one are considering ELDER CARE IN MCLEAN, VA, please call the friendly staff at Philia Care today at 202-607-2525.