Grandpas seeming to be eternally-frowning, grandmas complaining about everything in the house, elderly neighbors yelling at everyone passing by the porch – these mood swings of the senior members of our family might have become a normal thing to us but should not actually be ignored. The sudden changes in your parents’ mood could actually be symptoms of an underlying illness such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
While depression in younger people are triggered by career pressure, familial problems or concerns of the heart, anxiety in older adults can be because of the loss of a loved one, less attention from their children, or health problems. Many of them would try to hide their conditions from their relatives, and it is up to us how we can help our loved ones to cope with depression. 2
How then can we help? Below is a suggested list of what to do when your parents have started showing sudden mood changes.
As always, whenever we encounter the problem, the first thing we should always do is to recognize and accept that we are dealing with a serious problem. This will make things easier. It gives you time to think and prepare better for the sudden changes being encountered. Your parents will now be dependent on you and they will become more emotional. No matter what is going to happen next, you will be ready to deal with it. 2
If you do not live with them, you do not have to pay them a visit every day – although that can be the best option. 2 to 3 times a week is acceptable depending on your schedule. Take your kids with you, too. Grandparents love talking to and playing with their grandchildren!
You can take them to the mall or to the park. Take them to dinner. It helps a lot when the elderly gets exposed to various sceneries and other people. It helps them relax and enjoy, especially when they are in the company of loved ones.
Busy? One thing you can do every day is to simply call them. Ask about how they are doing, also share about your day and your kids, or talk about any random topic. Anything to make them feel your presence, because most of the time, that alone is all they ever need. 3
Understand that your parents are going through a difficult time. Yes, it will drive you crazy! But they need you now to be more understanding of them more than ever. Do not match their temper. We should all know by now that arguing with them will not do a good thing.
Try to calm them down. You can soothingly rub their back while whispering comforting words. Give them a warm cup of tea or watch the television with them. It is hard work, but it will be rewarding when they get better.
Again, patience is the key.
Physical exercises have proven to improve the mood of the elderly. Not only does it keep their body active, they also get distracted from all their worries. These will become their outlet in releasing stress; plus, they get to socialize with peers their age. It will be even better if you join them during these exercises. 5
Aside from the options provided, it is still important to seek medical care. As previously mentioned, sudden changes in the elderly’s mood and behavior could be signs of severe mental disorders like Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia, or it could be as simple as vitamin B deficiency.
B vitamins play a major role in producing oxygen and brain chemicals that affect the mood and brain functions. B vitamins are not produced by the body, so it can only be obtained from the food consumed. However, older adults’ appetite tends to decrease over time, making it difficult for them to obtain the necessary B vitamins their body needs.
Vitamin B12 in particular, has the most effect on the elderly’s brain functions. Vitamin B12 or cobalamin is in charge of regulating the body’s homocysteine levels. If the body produces a low amount of homocysteine, it could alter brain function thus interfering with the brain signals that often lead to mood swings. 6
On another note, cobalamin also works in helping improve the blood flow that could ensure enough oxygenation in the brain.
Another B vitamin, Vitamin B6 also plays a role in the brain. The body convert protein into the neurotransmitters which is needed to improve the mood and energy of a person.7
Your doctor will prescribe the B vitamins that your older loved ones need.
It is difficult to deal with our ailing parents especially those manifesting with depression. It is training and emotionally-draining. These challenges should not stop us from caring for our loved ones. They were the ones who raised us, who were patient with us as we grew up. Now is the time to show them how important they are.
Our efforts, no matter how big or small they are, can already make a difference in the lives of our elderly loved ones.
Psychiatric Times. (2015). Recognizing and Treating Geriatric Mood Disorders.
Mark Merrill. 8 Reasons Your Children Should Spend Time with the Elderly.
The Mindful Word. (2017). ELDERLY CARE: 10 tips that’ll help you react to elderly people with patience and understanding.
The Green Fields Continuing Care Community. 5 Benefits of Exercise for Seniors and Aging Adults.
Healthline. (2017). 9 Signs and Symptoms of Vitamin B12 Deficiency. 7 Healthline. (2018). 9 Health Benefits of Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine).