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Depression, Loneliness and Anxiety Care Guide

This care guide will help you understand more about depression, loneliness and anxiety in the elderly. At Springfield Healthcare, we provide a safe environment for vulnerable people who may be experiencing any of these.

What is depression in the elderly?

According to nhs.uk, “depression is more than simply feeling unhappy or fed up for a few days. Most people go through periods of feeling down, but when you’re depressed you feel persistently sad for weeks or months, rather than just a few days.”

Depression is not a normal part of ageing, although elderly individuals are at an increased risk for experiencing depression due to increased feelings of loneliness.

Everyone needs social interactions to survive, but as people age, they often spend more time alone. Research has shown that loneliness and social isolation are associated with higher rates of depression.

If you are concerned that a loved one may have depression, offer to visit a healthcare professional with them for support.

Some depressive symptoms include, but are not limited to;

  • Lack of interest in things usually enjoyed
  • Reluctance to engage
  • Tiredness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Losing confidence
  • Cognitive impairment

What is anxiety in the elderly?

Everyone has feelings of anxiety at some point in their life, and sometimes feelings of anxiety and worry are perfectly normal. Anxiety is a natural human response that we feel that we feel under threat. It can be experienced through our thoughts, feelings and physical sensations.

However, sometimes people find it difficult to control their worries and their feelings of anxiety affect their day-to-day lives. It can affect your behaviours; you may withdraw from loved ones, and feel as though you are unable to go to work or visit certain places.

Anxiety affects both your body and the mind. Symptoms of anxiety include (but are not limited to):

  • Feeling restless
  • Irritability
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Nausea and sweating
  • Panic attacks
  • Sleeping problems
  • Feeling of dread
  • Feeling panicky
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling detached

What is loneliness in the elderly?

There are more than two million people over the age of 75 living alone in the UK, with another one million going weeks without speaking to a friend, neighbour or family member (Age UK).

Loneliness (the feeling of being alone) and social isolation (lack of social connections) in older people is extremely common, mainly due to factors such as living alone, the loss of family or friends, mobility issues, chronic illness, and hearing loss.

These feelings of loneliness have proven to increase the risk of dementia and other medical conditions.

Some common and physical symptoms of loneliness in elderly people include:

  • Restlessness
  • Lack of appetite
  • Change in the frequency of contact
  • An increased amount of time spent at home alone
  • Imaginary health issues (imagining health conditions to gain attention)
  • Befriending people online

What are the causes of depression and anxiety?

There are many factors that predispose an individual to depression and anxiety. Examples include genetics, long-term health conditions, traumatic events (such as childhood abuse or domestic violence) and drug/alcohol misuse.

These, along with your life situations (unemployment, work stress, financial issues, loneliness, bereavement and difficulty with family/relationships) can trigger depression and anxiety.

Mental health problems can have a wide range of causes and can be very complex. For many people, it is likely to be a result of a combination of factors. Different things will affect different people in different ways.

How can I identify if an elderly is suffering with depression, anxiety and loneliness?

Depression, anxiety and loneliness can manifest themselves in a person, presenting both physical (listed above) and verbal signs. Verbal signs include mentioning of people they haven’t seen in a while, frequency of phone calls, verbal cues, suggesting they have medical issues and befriending strangers online.

If you notice any of these behaviours or behavioural changes in a friend, family or neighbour, try talking to them about it. Explain why you are concerned but avoid diagnosing and labelling their problem.

Offer your support and reassure them that their feelings are temporary, contact and visit them regularly to reduce feelings of loneliness and encourage them to make an appointment with their doctor or a health professional.

How can depression, anxiety and loneliness be treated?

According to Age UK, there are several treatments available. Often a combination of treatments is needed.

Talking treatments may be recommended to you by a doctor. This allows you to speak with a trained professional about your thoughts and feelings and how they affect mood and behaviour.

Your doctor may also prescribe antidepressants to help treat the symptoms of depression.

A combination of both talking therapies (counselling) and medication, can be suggested to improve an individual’s mental health.

A more holistic approach can also be suggested, by considering the individual’s physical and social activities, and emotional and spiritual well-being.

At Springfield Healthcare, we are able to help those who are experiencing loneliness by promoting regular engagement with other residents.

This may be through the range of activities that we organise to keep residents stimulated or through care and support from our highly-trained care teams.

We use person-centred care plans to ensure that our care teams are aware of all residents’ physical and social needs.

Through this, we can tailor the support and care whilst promoting companionship and stimulation through community engagement, family visits and our activities programme.

How to reduce anxiety in elderly individuals?

People who suffer from anxiety are often unable to control it, and it can make it difficult for them to enjoy their daily life. The first step is to visit your doctor. If an anxiety diagnosis is made, it can be managed with a combination of counselling, medication and relaxation techniques.

Skills learned during counselling and medication prescribed by a doctor can help to manage social anxiety symptoms.

Anxiety can be triggered by stress, fatigue and the feeling of being out of control, so managing stress by relaxing, meditation and exercise can help relieve these feelings.

Focussing on developing a balance in your life, with time for family, friends, work or volunteer and leisure activities can also reduce symptoms of anxiety in the elderly.

How to reduce loneliness in elderly individuals?

To reduce and prevent social isolation and loneliness in the elderly, we would encourage you to;

  • Reach out to friends and neighbours – nothing can replace seeing your loved ones, but it can still be great to connect via phone calls, social media, emails etc. Ask a relative, friend or neighbour to help you
  • Focus on spending time with your family
  • Seek volunteer opportunities in the community – give something back to the community by volunteering and reminding you
  • Encourage exercise by joining an exercise class – stay active and social by joining a local exercise class and meeting new people with similar interests as well as improving physical health.
  • Visit a senior centre – many local community centres have exciting, organised activities which offer a great way to make new friends and do something fun

Depression, anxiety and loneliness can be common in elderly people. Springfield Healthcare can support its individuals by creating and delivering person-centred care plans. Care teams embrace personal identity and growth, create meaningful and engaging activities and encourage socialisation and community to support residents’ mental health.

With comfortable surroundings, friendly faces and exciting activities timetables to keep residents active and engaged, Springfield Healthcare provides a safe space for elderly individuals to live. If you would like to find out more, please get in touch. We will be more than happy to help.