/ Ageing Parents

Is it a bad mood or is it depression?

Understanding and managing your parents’ moods as they age

Did you know that while our moods fluctuate within and across days, over months and years our moods don’t actually change all that much. We have what is called a mood ‘set point’. In fact, your mood generally stays the same across your life.

However certain things can affect our moods, and working out when something is just a low mood, or a normal fluctuation within a person’s range of moods and when it is depression can be difficult.

Particularly when your parent is dealing with challenging life events associated with ageing such as increased illness, loss of independence or grief over losing a life partner or friends.

So how can you tell if your parent is experiencing a low mood or depression? Below we have set out some signs that it is depression and tips for managing low moods.

Three signs that your parent may be experiencing depression:

  1. Their mood doesn’t pick up for weeks, even after they do something that would normally make them feel better or bring them joy.
  2. Your parent appears more anxious, irritable, or worried about things they wouldn’t normally worry about.
  3. Your parent is experiencing problems sleeping, poor energy levels or loss of appetite.

If you think your parent is experiencing depression, it is important to seek professional help – first stop can always be their GP.

When your parent is experiencing a low mood, there are things they can do to try lift it. Below are four mood lifting tips for your parent.

1. Eat a better quality diet – research shows that diet affects mood and depression. A good diet is one with lots of nutritious food – five serves of vegetables a day and two serves of fruit, avocado, oily fish and white meat (instead of red). Read up on the Mediterranean diet for inspiration. A bad diet is one high in fat, sugar and processed foods (basically the western diet).
2. Limit alcohol – there is a fine line between a relaxing glass of wine and a couple of glasses, which can be known to reduce your mood. Suggest to your parent that they limit themselves to one standard drink a day.
3. Do some exercise – one hour a week of aerobic exercise is a great start. Encourage your parent to choose an activity that they enjoy, maybe walking or swimming. Exercise can also be a great opportunity to reconnect with nature, which can be a great mood lifter.
4. Get enough sleep – the idea that you need less sleep as you get older is simply not true. As you age you still need about seven to eight hours sleep a night. Problems arise when your parent goes to bed too early, as an 8pm bed time will mean a 4am rise.

As always, prevention is better than cure and the tips set out above offer good lifestyle and health choices.

They may also play a role in preventing some depression as research shows that physical illness and depression go hand in hand. So encouraging your parent to stay as healthy as possible, and have regular check ups with their doctor may have benefits beyond just good physical health.

To find out more about Careseekers and how we can help your parents age at home, and keep them smiling click here.