Your Aging Parents and Depression: Part 2 – 9 Ways You Can Help

Aging parents and depression. What does this phrase mean to you? Hint: It’s not about how depressed we feel to watch our mother and father decline. Senior citizens often face late-onset depression. We must stay aware of this and be prepared to act. First, we must watch for some of the more common symptoms. Here are some examples:

  • Decreased concentration and focus

  • Difficulty making decisions

  • Chronic crankiness, agitation, and irritability

  • Low energy

  • Slow movements and/or speech

  • Memory issues

  • Noticeable changes in eating and sleeping habits

  • Weight loss or gain

  • Losing interest in people or things they once enjoyed

  • Becoming isolated and withdrawn

  • Avoiding social contact

  • Talking of death and/or suicide

The combination of aging parents and depression can be a major challenge. But you can help, a lot, if you remain aware and committed.

9 Ways You Can Help Your Aging Parents Deal With Depression

1. Don’t fall back on the “it’s just part of aging” explanation

If we perceive our parents’ symptoms as “normal,” we won’t take the appropriate action. Sure, signs of aging are real. This doesn’t mean everything older adults do is a result of their age. Observe them. Listen to them. Never dismiss symptoms that feel different or alarming.

2. Educate yourself about depression and its treatments

Remember that depression is an illness. Put in the time to learn precisely what this means. Study the symptoms and causes. Comprehend the importance of the different treatments. Recognize the urgency of taking action.

3. Persuade them to be more socially active

Isolation is not the same as solitude. Yes, your parents need their space. But they also need to socialize with their peers. Perhaps there’s a local community center they can visit. Help them arrange outings and other social plans. More and more health clubs now offer senior citizen discounts and programs.

4. Talk to them about the benefits of exercise

Speaking of gyms, your parents need to sweat. When someone feels tired, it can take some work to convince them that movement will energize them. Try going to the health club with them. Another option is to hire a personal trainer who specializes in senior fitness.

5. Improve your listening skills

This is tricky. These are your parents, after all. There’s plenty of baggage to deal with. And plenty of long-term patterns to address. Guess what? You have to learn to listen to them with new ears. Your parents have entered a puzzling new phase of their life. They deserve an open mind. Choose empathy and compassion.

6. Tell them about people who have recovered from depression

Hope is essential. Older adults with depression may feel worthless and hopeless. Therefore, it’s important to inspire them. Let them know they can and will heal, like others  before them.

7. Help them without taking over their lives

If you have children, you may casually fall back on treating your parents in the same manner. Resist that temptation. Your parents need help. They don’t need a boss or a dictator. Be patient with yourself and you will discover the right balance.

8. Take care of yourself

I discussed this in an earlier post but it bears repeating. If we care for ourselves then we can better care for others. Don’t try to be a superhero. Just be the best version of you.

9. Encourage them to try therapy

Your aging parents and depression will be a challenge. Your parents may try their best. You may be there to help them. Yet, sometimes you’ll need assistance from a trained counselor. Initially, you might start with a suggestion. Perhaps you can provide some reading material. Don’t give up. Be patient and consistent.

For help in navigating the emotional challenges of caring for aging parents. please contact our intake team at the Center for Mindful Psychotherapy: call us at (415) 766-0276; or email us at