Tips for Caregivers: Assessing the Wellbeing of Seniors from a Distance

The isolation and fear caused by COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on the wellbeing of seniors, with nearly 50% of seniors surveyed in a Kaiser Family Foundation poll stating that their level of stress and worry was adversely affecting their health. And while it still may be risky to visit in person with older adults, it is critical to stay in frequent and regular contact to ensure the wellbeing of seniors and also to watch for any signs or changes that could signify a mental health concern, such as depression.

As stated by psychiatrist Judith Feld, MD, MPH, “If a senior usually really enjoys a call with a grandchild, for example, but that seems to have changed, maybe you need to ask more questions, such as, ‘How can we be of help?’”

Other indications of depression to watch for include sleeping problems, diminished appetite, sluggishness, and complaints about pain, which interestingly, is often one of the main symptoms of depression in the elderly. Pay attention to anything that is not normal for a senior’s character and personality.

It’s essential to recognize that depression is not simply an unavoidable part of getting older, and that it can be a serious – but treatable – condition.

Below are a few further guidelines to help effectively assess a senior’s mental health:

  • Keep the conversations natural and organic, without coming across as interrogating. Statements such as, “Tell me what’s been happening in your life this week,” will motivate a loved one to open up much more than, “Tell me what the doctor told you at your last appointment.” The aim is to be caring yet not condescending, being careful not to try to parent your parents.
  • While seeing and talking with the grandkids on Zoom is a good option to boost a senior’s mood, be certain that you plan for some one-on-one time for you to talk without children present.
  • Pay attention to what is going on in the background of your video chats for any further clues, such as whether the home looks tidy and well maintained, along with personal hygiene – disheveled, unkempt hair, for instance.
  • Consider whether substance abuse might be a factor. A rise in alcohol consumption during the pandemic is happening in individuals of all ages, and may be particularly harmful if there are potential interactions with medications the senior is taking.

In the event that you suspect depression or any other mental health issues in your senior loved one, be sure to contact the doctor immediately. Since you know the senior well, you might be able to pick up on signs that the medical team misses during routine appointments, and it’s imperative to make your concerns known.

If you have any concerns, get a hold of Seniorcorp for further assistance. We can serve as your ears and eyes when you are unable to be there in person, and provide a wide array of customized services to boost socialization and quality of life at home. Contact us at 757-640-0557 for additional information on why Seniorcorp is leading provider of home health services in Chesapeake, VA, and the surrounding areas.