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Grief vs depression: How to Determine the Difference

Loss is a normal part of life, and with great loss comes tremendous grief. If your parent or loved one who is receiving senior care at home has recently suffered a loss of some kind, whether it be from the death of a spouse or the loss of mobility or independence, you may have concerns about whether their suffering is normal grief or something else, like depression.

When a person suffers a painful loss, we know that grieving is a normal and healthy reaction, but sometimes those feelings of sadness and pain will last for a long time.
You may wonder when is “too long”, and when should seek help for your parent receiving senior care from their home.

Differentiating grief from depression isn’t always obvious because some of the symptoms can overlap, but it is important to understand the differences so that your bereaved senior can get the necessary treatment or support that they need.


Here are some ways to distinguish grief from clinical depression:

Home Care Services Naples, FL: Grief vs Depression

Grief: a natural reaction to a loss which may include emotional, cognitive, physical or behavioral responses individually unique from person to person.
Other signs of grief:
• Crying or tearfulness
• Sleep disturbances
• Changes in appetite
• Avoidance of people and social situations
• Loneliness, sadness, and/or hopelessness
• Neglect of personal hygiene
• Trouble with concentration
• Exhaustion
• Anger (at themselves, the deceased, or God)
• Loss of interest in work or hobbies
• Ability to feel pleasure fluctuates but they can feel it
• Can be comforted by the presence of others
• May express guilt over the loss
• The person’s main focus is on their loved one
• Has a mix of good days and bad days
• Is able to feel and express a wide range of emotions
• Any thoughts of death are usually in reference to being reunited with their loved one

Depression: a serious clinical condition that if left untreated, can become deadly. For a medical diagnosis, certain symptoms usually need to be present nearly every day for at least two weeks and include:

• Loss of interest in activities that once caused pleasure
• Loss of appetite and/or significant weight loss
• Constant feelings of emptiness and despair
• Irritability
• Inability to feel pleasure
• Loss of energy
• Sluggish movements
• Sleeping too little or too much
• Feelings of guilt and worthlessness
• Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide
• Persistent isolation from others
• The person’s main focus is on themself
• Significant and prolonged impairment in ability to function
• Self loathing
• Fixed emotions, the feeling of being stuck
• Indecisiveness, difficultly concentrating


If your senior is showing signs or symptoms of depression, make an appointment with their health care professional right away. There are treatment options for depression, yet grief is usually not treated with medication but rather with the help of things such as group support.


If you have concerns about depression with your loved one, hiring a senior care aide may be a way to help them with companionship, help around the house or with medications, and keep an eye on them while they keep them company.

If you or an aging loved one are considering Home Care Services in Naples, FL, call the caring staff at Dial-a-Nurse today. Naples: (239) 307-0033. Ft. Myers: (239) 307-0065.



Depression in Older Adults

Grief vs. Depression: What You Need to Know and When to Seek Help

Ted Wolfendale

Administrator at Dial-a-Nurse
Mr. Wolfendale is a graduate of Stetson University, and Stetson University School of Law, and was admitted to the Florida Bar in 1988. He is admitted to practice in the Middle district of Florida, is an active member of the Florida Health Law section, and Lee County Bar Association.

In 1995 he became Administrator of Dial-a-Nurse nursing agency, the oldest nursing agency in the Southwest Florida succeeding his mother who started the company 37 years ago. He is also President of Nevco, Inc., an educational healthcare training company begun in 1988.

Mr. Wolfendale has worked with the U.S. Department of Commerce on various Missions to improve the quality of life around the world by development of supportive healthcare programs. In 2005 he traveled with U.S. officials and addressed the Italian National Government assisting in the creation of Nurse Education mandates for that Country. In 2006 he was invited and spoke with the National Institutes of Continuing Education in Eastern Europe on healthcare education and developmental mandates, and most recently represented the United States at the European Union in Lake Balaton, Hungary in 2011. In 2014 he traveled with the U.S. Department of State to Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam in an effort to improve caregiver knowledge and training.

Mr. Wolfendale has worked with a number of non-profits in contributing and creating curriculum to improve the quality of life in third-world countries since 2001, and notably created a successful program in Odessa, India that has been modeled in other areas of the world. In his backyard, he has worked with local Goodwill Industries to provide curriculum and training to underserved individuals who have obtained employment as a result of educational training. He was the Congressional appointment to the Governor's purple ribbon task force in 2013, and has worked to educate caregivers in all aspects of Alzheimer's training.
Ted Wolfendale

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