While depression isn’t necessarily a normal part of aging, it is a serious medical issue that afflicts many older adults. In fact, it’s a common issue among the elderly. According to the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, about one-quarter of older adults assessed by healthcare providers suffer from some level of depression.
That said, depression is often not recognized in older adults. Further, it often not properly treated at this stage in life. Without adequate treatment, depression can have serious consequences on an older individual’s ability to enjoy life to the fullest.
It can even be so debilitating that it can impede a person’s ability to properly function and perform daily activities. Further, depression can have a negative effect on a person’s overall health.
Luckily, with the right help and treatment, the symptoms of depression can be successfully treated. And the first step is being able to recognize the signs of depression in older adults.
Why Are Signs of Depression Often Missed in the Elderly?
Missing the signs of depression in older people can cause them to miss out on the proper treatment they need. But why are these signs often missed? Here are just a few reasons:
- Assumption that depression is a normal part of getting older
- Isolation can be depressing, which can be confused with actual depression
- Physical issues may be symptoms of depression but are not associated as such
- Lack of communication
Signs and Symptoms of Depression in the Elderly
It’s important to be vigilant about watching for signs of depression in the elderly in your life, which include the following:
- Feelings of despair
- Unexplained muscle aches
- Loss of interest in hobbies
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Feelings of guilt
- Difficulties with concentration
- Lack of motivation
- Slow movement
- Lack of energy
- Neglecting personal care
- Poor sleep
- Thoughts of suicide
What Can Be Done About Depression?
There are several therapies that can work to help alleviate the symptoms of depression. For starters, therapy works quite well for depression because it addresses the underlying reasons why depression has developed rather than just putting a bandaid over the symptoms. Therapy can help the patient work through life changes that might be stressful, heal from loss, and effectively deal with painful emotions.
Medication management can also be implemented. If signs of depression are rather severe and acute, medication might be required to keep potentially dangerous thoughts at bay and keep the person feeling more uplifted and better about themselves and the world around them.
Patients may also take steps on their own to improve their mood, such as:
- Staying active
- Getting plenty of sunlight
- Reducing refined sugars in the diet
- Avoiding alcohol
- Joining a support group
- Getting a pet
- Learning a new skill
Understanding Depression is the First Step
It’s important to understand that depression is not a sign of mental weakness. Instead, it is a disorder that cannot be helped, just like any physical issue. It can happen to anyone at any age.
While certain events in an aging person’s life can make a person feel depressed – such as retiring, losing a spouse or friend, or failing health – clinical depression is a serious matter that needs to be addressed.
Regardless of the challenges that are faced by the elderly, there are measures that can be taken that can help older people feel happier again so they can enjoy their Golden Years. And as someone who is caring for the elderly, you can play a key role in recognizing the signs of depression and helping the individual afflicted get the help required.