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Depression And The Elderly

Posted by Deb Spinelli on 10/29/2015
Depression can strike at any age, but the changes that accompany later life can be particularly conducive to depression. As we age, we lose much of what once defined us. Retirement from a long held job can lead to boredom and depression, as well a loss of social or occupational identity. As we age, we also witness the deaths of friends and loved ones. This can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness. A variety of medical problems can also result in frustration and, eventually, depression. Not to mention the fact that many common medications can actually lead to depression even as they work to cure the primary condition for which they were prescribed.

The effects of depression go far beyond a person's mood. Depression prevents a person from enjoying life. Even the things in which the depressed person once delighted now no longer hold much appeal. Despite the prevalence of depression among the elderly, it is not an unavoidable aspect of aging. There are many things that can be done to prevent depression in the elderly or to alleviate the symptoms once depression has taken hold.

The first step in preventing or banishing depression is a recognition of its signs and symptoms. Some indications that your loved one may be depressed include:
  • Sadness
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of interest in favorite past times or hobbies
  • Social withdrawal or isolation
  • Loss of appetite and/or weight loss
  • Sleep issues, such as insomnia or excessive sleeping
  • Feelings of worthlessness and self-loathing
  • Reliance on alcohol or other drugs
  • Suicidal thoughts or attempts or an unhealthy preoccupation with death

Sometimes, of course, a depressed person might not feel “sad” at all. Instead, he or she may complain of a lack of motivation or energy. Sometimes, depression can even mask itself in other physical symptoms. Often physical complaints such as pain or frequent headaches can be signs of underlying depression in the elderly.

If you suspect that your elderly loved one may suffer from depression, contact a physician to discuss treatment options. Sometimes simply talking to someone might help, but in more severe cases medication may be necessary to treat depression. Often depression can be lessened or avoided altogether when your loved one maintains a strong support system and continues to pursue worthwhile activities in which they find purpose and fulfillment.

Posted in: Elderly Care