According to a research paper by DukeNUS Medical School, in part based on a report by the Department of Statistics, Singapore, 41,200 Singaporeans above the age of 65 lived alone in 2015. DukeNUS also reports that the Singapore Ministry of Health estimates this figure will more than double to 83,000 by 2030.
While many elderly Singaporeans live alone by choice and remain active and optimistic in their silver years, there are others who feel isolated and sink into depression. This is especially true if they’ve lost a spouse in their older years, or their children and families live far away and are unable to visit.
Fortunately, help is at hand from qualified psychiatrists in Singapore who are experienced in the mental health issues that the elderly may encounter and who can help them through the dark days of grief and depression.
Loss of mobility often results in elderly Singaporeans falling into depression.
Not only do physical limitations prevent the elderly from taking a walk in the sunshine, or meeting their friends for a chat and a cup of coffee, it also results in a loss of independence.
After spending decades caring for their families, friends, and themselves, they may now need others to care for them. As Singaporeans grow older they may not be able to attend to their most basic needs like bathing themselves or preparing meals. This change from being caregivers to needing care themselves can be devastating for an independently-minded elderly Singaporean.
Loss of mobility and independence can result in elderly people throwing tantrums and being irritable. A psychiatrist’s help is invaluable to counsel the aged person to cope with their physical limitations, as well as guiding caregivers to a better understanding of geriatric mental wellbeing.
Memory Loss, Dementia and Alzheimer’s
Not all elderly Singaporeans experience mental deterioration, but it is one of the most common symptoms of ageing.
As an elderly person begins to suffer from memory lapses and gets confused, anxiety and depression follow. While there is no cure for mental deterioration among the aged, art therapy has been shown to be beneficial for those experiencing dementia and Alzheimer’s in their silver years.
Art therapy helps the elderly with coordination and improves the flexibility of their wrists and hands; cognitive function improves and the brain is stimulated. Also, art therapy gives lonely, elderly Singaporeans the opportunity to socialise and feel less depressed.
The feeling of being useful often disappears as a person gets older. Children are grown-up and no longer need to be looked after. The respect and admiration from work peers vanish as the elderly no longer work.
On top of that, if an elderly person needs someone to help them with their basic needs due to mental or physical deterioration, they may feel that they’re a burden to others.
Believing that they’re no longer useful and that they’re a burden to their loved ones, an elderly person may lose their sense of self-worth and sink into a deep depression.
Family and friends can bolster their elderly loved one’s self-esteem by being patient, understanding, and compassionate.
Perhaps most helpful is to engage a psychiatrist or psychologist experienced in treating depression.
Other Ways to Help the Elderly in Singapore Overcome Depression
In addition to therapy by skilled psychiatrists and psychologists, anti-depressant medication can work wonders to lift the spirits of the elderly.
Caregivers trained in caring for the elderly can also be valuable in helping seniors shop, attend to their personal hygiene, prepare nutritious meals, and experience less stress in the daily business of life.
Activities like gardening and occupational therapy not only help with depression in the elderly but may also slow the progress of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
If at all practical or possible, caring for a pet can make a world of difference to an elderly person who is depressed due to loneliness and low self-esteem.
Exercise, like a gentle walk in the sunshine, and socialising with others are imperative for the mental well-being of elderly folk.
Nutritious food and a healthy diet significantly improve the mood of elderly Singaporeans suffering from depression.
Signs that an Elderly Singaporean may be Depressed
If your elderly loved has one or more of the following symptoms, they may be depressed and need treatment for depression:
- loss of appetite
- loss of interest in getting out of the house
- irritability and temper tantrums
- refusing to take medication
- neglecting personal hygiene
- living in squalor
- missing doctor’s appointments
Caregivers Also Need Care
It’s very stressful for a loved one to care for their elderly depressed family member or friend, and they too may get depressed. Just as skilled psychiatrists and psychologists can help the elderly overcome depression, so also can they help those that are caregivers to the elderly.
People are living longer across the developed world, but living longer isn’t always an easy path to the final curtain. Living longer also means getting frailer mentally and physically, and the elderly may be hard-pressed to keep depression at bay.
It may be even more difficult for elderly Singaporeans who have financial difficulties, but they can take heart from an initiative by the Health Ministry and financial subsidies from the Singapore government that will assist them to achieve improved physical and mental health.
If you have an elderly loved one who is depressed, or if you as a primary caregiver are feeling the strain of looking after someone in their silver years, then making an appointment at the Adelphi Psych Medicine Clinic in Singapore is your first step to achieving a better quality of life for both of you.
The clinicians at our mental health clinic have the skills to assess your needs and provide the right therapy for you and your loved one. While art therapy has proved to be successful in treating depression and mental illness in all age groups, Adelphi also offers other depression therapies, like EMDR (eye movement desensitisation and reprocessing), cognitive behavioural treatment, and medication.