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Is an elderly loved one's depression normal?

You have seen your loved one's mood change as they grow older. They used to be so happy and upbeat. It slowly started to fade. Now, it seems like they're depressed all the time. In fact, it seems like more than just feeling down about changing circumstances -- a loss of freedom when they moved into a nursing home, for instance -- and it may even be clinical depression.

You tell yourself that it's probably normal. It's probably just part of getting older. They're changing and aging, and it's not always for the better, but it doesn't mean anything deeper is wrong.

That's a dangerous line of thinking. The National Institute on Aging warns that "depression is not a normal part of aging." It's not something unavoidable that happens to everyone after they hit a certain age. It is not something that you should expect or accept.

So, is there more to it? What could have triggered it?

One thing you want to consider is the type of care that they're getting in that nursing home. Have you seen signs of physical, emotional or even sexual abuse? Do you think that they're just being neglected and not getting proper human contact? Have they been missing some of their medications due to that neglect? Are the staff not taking care of them and making sure they have a healthy, comfortable life with basic comforts that you expect, like meals, clean sheets and help with showers and trips to the bathroom?

If you think your loved one is being neglected or abused, you must know what steps to take. An attorney can help.

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