Depression and the ElderlyRecognizing depression in the elderly starts with knowing the signs and symptoms including:
- Abandoning or losing interest in hobbies or other pleasurable pastimes
- Social withdrawal and isolation (reluctance to be with friends, engage in activities, or leave home)
- Weight loss or loss of appetite
- Sleep disturbances (difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, oversleeping, or daytime sleepiness)
- Loss of self-worth (worries about being a burden, feelings of worthlessness, self-loathing)
- Increased use of alcohol or other drugs
- Unexplained or aggravated aches and pains
- Feelings of hopelessness or helplessness
- Anxiety and worries
- Memory problems
- Lack of motivation and energy
- Slowed movement and speech
- Neglecting personal care (skipping meals, forgetting meds, neglecting personal hygiene)
- Fixation on death; suicidal thoughts or attempts
Physical Pain or Symptoms of Depression?
Often, care givers of seniors do not recognize symptoms of depression in the elderly, and the disease goes undiagnosed causing unnecessary suffering. Seniors, themselves, often do not recognize symptoms of depression, complaining of instead, of low motivation, a lack of energy, or physical problems. In fact, physical complaints, such as arthritis pain or worsening headaches, are often the predominant symptom of depression in the elderly.
Medical conditions can cause depression in older adults
Medical problems often cause depression in older adults and the elderly, either directly or as a psychological reaction to the illness. Any chronic medical condition, particularly if it is painful, disabling, or life-threatening, can lead to depression or make depression symptoms worse.
- Parkinson’s disease
- heart disease
- thyroid disorders
- Vitamin B12 deficiency
- dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
- multiple sclerosis
Watch for signs. If the signs appear, get help from competent mental health professionals.
Depression is not a sign of weakness. It is a disease. If symptoms appear, get help from competent mental health professionals experienced to diagnose and treat this disease.
- About six million people are affected by late life depression, but only 10% ever receive treatment. (Brown University Long Term Care Quarterly, 1997)
- Fifteen to 20% of U.S. families are caring for an older relative. A survey of these adult caregivers found that 58% showed clinically significant depressive symptoms. (Family Caregiver Alliance, 1997)