Dealing with Your Aging Parent’s Depression

It is a mistake to assume that depression is an inevitable side effect of our later years. It’s true that this phase of life comes with unique stressors and pressures, but with the right help and strategies, one can lead a fulfilling and empowered life. Dealing with your aging parent’s depression is a priority, and comprehensive treatment programs offer a well-rounded approach to an overall better quality of life.

While growing older is inevitable, disempowerment and depression are not. Why is it so common to assume that poor quality of life is a natural part of aging? It’s true that we cannot escape the transitions of purpose, ability, and lifestyle as the years go on, but we can embrace and adapt with the flow of change.

What this means for our aging parents is that we shouldn’t take anything for granted. We shouldn’t assume that suffering and isolation are unavoidable. We shouldn’t assume that they don’t need an active support system; after all, we need supportive connections at every single stage of life. When you notice signs that your mother or father is depressed, you can help them to access the treatment options to revive their overall well-being. Compassionately dealing with aging parents’ depression is a necessary step toward their best health and quality of life. And generous help is never out of reach.

Common Stressors That Older Adults Experience


If it weren’t enough to prioritize an older adult’s mental health for its own sake—it’s important to also consider that one’s mental health can have an impact on physical health and well-being. Depression and other mental illnesses can undermine the immune system’s resiliency, contributing to infections, cancers, autoimmune disorders, and other medical complications. These interconnected conditions can quickly compound for immeasurable distress, or a comprehensive approach to care can untangle the grip of illness and replace it with empowered treatments and tools for coping.

Aging is a challenging enough journey. In a lot of ways, the later years in life present unfamiliar territory as our parents transition and face these common disappointments and stressors:

  • Transitioning out of a long-time career and the related sense of purpose
  • Financial strain following retirement
  • Increasing medical concerns and expenses
  • Changing family roles and dynamics
  • Declining physical abilities as the body ages
  • Increasing dependence on others—waning independence
  • Heavy responsibilities if caring for a spouse, an adult child, or grandchildren
  • Grief and loss of family and friends
  • Worries about one’s own illnesses and overall health
  • Chronic pain and weakness
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Isolation and loneliness

Older adults may be at risk of depression due to genetic factors, co-occurring disorders, a history of depression, and other neurological factors. But this list of challenges can also influence the onset of depression, and these pressures can aggravate existing depressive symptoms.

The more you can understand your parent’s sources of stress, the more you can empathize and think in the direction of solutions. By turning away from or minimizing their pain, we isolate them further. But, by believing that there are accessible ways to improve their quality of life and their mental health, we inspire hope, connection, and feelings of empowerment.

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Help for Dealing with an Aging Parent’s Depression


Depression in the elderly is not simply incidental. Depression at any age is a serious psychological disorder that requires early and comprehensive care to reverse an individual’s suffering and to prevent further mental and emotional decline. While it’s very normal to feel sadness and even despair when enduring certain situations, such as the loss of a loved one—when these low emotions persist, it could be the result of a serious underlying problem.

If your parent experiences a fairly constant low mood for two weeks or more, they may be suffering from major depression. And it is unlikely that their condition will resolve with time alone. In fact, it’s more likely that their condition will get even worse. In addition to their overall distress, they may be at risk of self-harm, suicide, substance abuse, more serious isolation, physical decline, and a deteriorating lifestyle.

The best course of care and recovery for seniors addresses more than just their depressive symptoms. A comprehensive treatment program also takes into account the stressors and challenges they face. Clinicians can design a treatment plan that incorporates:

  • Medications for symptom management
  • Therapies for processing complex thoughts and feelings, the development of positive coping skills, and empowered relaxation
  • A dynamic support system composed of knowledgeable experts, family, friends, and peers enduring similar phase-of-life challenges
  • Home and lifestyle support to mitigate some of the inherent stressors in your parent’s life

The dangerous trend of isolation is reversed in a community treatment environment where the focus is on individual as well as cooperative care. Clients can be assured of careful monitoring as they adjust to an ideal medication plan. And, working with a therapist, they’ll be able to face the changes and challenges before them with compassionate acceptance. They can learn to cope with the stressors of daily life and feel empowered by their reliable sources of support. And, in the meantime, you can learn how to care for your aging parent in ways that support their long-term recovery and their opportunities to thrive.

Bridges to Recovery offers comprehensive residential treatment for people struggling with mental health disorders as well as process addictions. Contact us to learn more about our renowned Los Angeles and San Diego-based programs and how we can help you or your loved one start the journey toward healing.