If you have considered that your loved one may be depressed but dismissed it as part of the normal aging process, think again. Depression is the most common mental problem affecting seniors, but the majority of older adults never receive any treatment for the condition. It is not normal for people of any age to suffer from this disease.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health and the Centers for Disease Control, as many as three out of every 100 people over the age of 65 suffer from clinical depression, and the suicide rate is twice as high in this population compared to other groups.
Because only 38 percent of seniors believe depression is a health problem and 58 percent believe it is normal to become depressed in old age (according to a Mental Health America survey of adults aged 65 and older), the majority of adults with depression do not receive any treatment for the condition. Not only does this untreated or mistreated depression increase the rise of suicide, but it eliminates the opportunity for treatment which may help older adults avoid its emotional and physical implications.
10 common warning signs
So, what are the symptoms of depression you should look for in yourself or your loved one? According to MHA, the most recognizable symptoms include:
- Excessive sleeping, insomnia or fatigue
- Ongoing feelings of sadness, hopelessness or pessimism
- Feelings of worthlessness or helplessness
- Loss of interest or pleasure in once enjoyable activities
- Social withdrawal
- Eating more or less than normal
- Aches and pains that do not subside with treatment
- Lack of concentration, poor memory and inability to make decisions
- Irritability and restlessness
- Thoughts of death and suicide
According to the National Institute on Aging, these warning signs should not be ignored. Listen carefully if someone of any age complains about being depressed or says people don’t care. That person may really be asking for help. Seeking medical evaluation is a good first step.
Treatment may help
According to Mental Health America, more than 80 percent of all individuals with depression can be successfully treated with medication, psychotherapy or a combination of both. After meeting with a doctor to determine the cause of the depressive symptoms, some treatment options may include:
- The use of antidepressant medication, which can help improve concentration, sleep, mood and appetite
- Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, may also be effective and can be used alone or alongside antidepressants
- Exercise can help reduce the symptoms of depression, according to the Mayo Clinic
- Eating a good diet, especially one low in sugar and fat, has also been linked to lower rates of depression
- Engaging in social activities and getting out of the house can be another step toward recovery from a depressive episode – including interaction with family, friends, neighbors or others in their assisted living community
Risk factors for senior depression: what are they and how can they be reduced?
Stressful and emotional situations in later life can lead to mental health problems. Some examples are:
- Widowhood – a third of widows or widowers meet the criteria for clinical depression within a month of their spouse’s death and, of these, 50 percent remain clinically depressed a year later
- Health problems common in older age, including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, heart disease, cancer and arthritis
- Changes in day-to-day life, such as retirement, which can cause loss of friendships and social contact
Some steps seniors can take to lower their risk for developing depression include:
- Trying to prepare for major changes in life, particularly the inevitable ones, such as retirement
- Engage in regular face-to-face contact with friends and family at least three times per week
- Engage in regular physical activity and adopt a healthy diet. According to the MNT, a 2014 study found exercising three times a week may decrease depression risk by 19 percent.
Depression should not be ignored, especially in seniors. It is neither inevitable nor untreatable, so if you or your loved one is experiencing signs of the disease, contact a health provider for an evaluation as soon as possible. Find more information about how to recognize depression in seniors, how to know if you or a loved one is depressed and the importance of seeking help for depression on the Sunrise Senior Living Blog.
Source: Sunrise Senior Living