According to the CDC, up to 13.5% of older Americans struggle with depression. There are age-related factors besides poor health that increase the odds of developing mental health issues. On the upside, depression in seniors is treatable, so don’t lose hope.
Symptoms of Geriatric Depression
Perhaps you’ve been feeling downcast for long stretches, or you’ve noticed an elderly friend or family member behave unusually.
The warning signs of geriatric depression are subtle, but a GP can help you confirm a diagnosis. Apart from suicidal thoughts which are a clear red flag, many of the following symptoms may be confused for ‘getting old’. They include but are not limited to:
- Aching muscles or joints
- Chest pain
- Digestive issues
- An inability to focus
- Loss of appetite
- Loss of interest in hobbies
- Low self-esteem
- Quick to anger
- Sexual dysfunction
- Sleep disorders
- Unusual fatigue
- Expressions of suicidal ideation
In an emergency, call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on 800-273-8255.
Risk Factors for Geriatric Depression
High blood pressure can cause physical changes in the brain that lead to depression.
But old age can also be a time of unsettling transition and trauma, especially if a growing dependence on others makes you feel like you’re a burden.
Over and above the grief over the death of a spouse or friends, the following factors can leave older adults feeling purposeless and isolated.
- Being female
- Chronic medication combinations
- Prescription drug abuse
- Family history of clinical depression
- Fear of death
- Deteriorating cognitive abilities or physical health
- Living alone and the loss of a social network
- Moving homes or cities
- Retirement or a lower income
Treatment for Depression in Seniors
Without treatment, depression can become worse and can negatively affect your ability to recover from illness. But only a fraction of the Americans suffering from late-life depression, as low as 10%, seek or receive treatment.
This lack of treatment is due to misdiagnoses, feelings of shame for having a mental health condition, or a mistaken belief that aging, sickness, and/or intense sadness go hand in hand.
Talk therapies can be effective. And your physician can determine which antidepressants might work well with your other chronic meds, if relevant. If drugs aren’t an option, electroconvulsive therapy can help in severe cases.
At least 20 minutes of daily exercise like walking or gardening can boost mood and prevent mild depression from progressing. Support groups or hobbies can stave off loneliness, as can calls and visits from family members. And visits from faith leaders can benefit those inclined to religion.
Contact Caring Healthcare
At Caring Healthcare in Columbia, SC, we prioritize improving seniors’ quality of life. Needing in-home care does not have to mean a complete loss of independence and dignity. Instead, compassionate assistance can help older adults look forward to a new day with its moments of joy and possibility. Get in touch for more information.