Holiday depression among elderly sparks outreach program

Seniors can be vulnerable emotionally this time of year. That is why Emeritus Senior Living has created the Home Visit Program, which is designed to check on the wellbeing of older people.

The free program has operated primarily through referrals from agencies and emergency services providers since it launched in 2009. The program has sinced opened referrals from family members.

“Just in the past year, Emeritus communities have conducted 22,000 home visits, so we know the need is great,” said Budgie Amparo, Emeritus senior living executive vice president of quality services. “We encourage the public to contact us; we seek to make the program more easily accessible to a greater number of people.”

Through the Home Visit Program, family members can arrange for an Emeritus expert to go to the home of an elderly person to see if he or she is doing well physically and psychologically. If appropriate, a nurse will conduct an evaluation to help identify care needs. Emeritus will then connect the senior and family with the proper resources and services to provide assistance.

“We may bring a hot meal, snack or dessert, and we also offer a listening ear and companionship,” Amparo said. “Afterward, if needed, we coordinate between families and community resources or we make recommendations. We may also follow up with additional visits, as requested by the family.”

Emeritus decided to expand the Home Visit Program during the holiday season because of the increased likelihood of depression among the elderly at this time of year. About 20 percent of seniors suffer from full-scale depression or a less severe form of the condition and the holiday season can be particularly difficult, according to Amparo.

“Most seniors know little about depression and they are unlikely to seek professional help for it,” he added. “Still, depression can cause them to eat less, turn to alcohol, stop taking care of their daily needs and even consider suicide. Knowing this, we felt it would be very important to expand the home visit program during this season.”

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