Depression in the elderly is actually a common thing; however, this doesn’t make it a normal thing. Late-life depression affects as many as 6 million Americans aged 65 and older but only 10% of these people receive treatment for their depression. Why is this? Elderly people often display symptoms of depression differently and it can be confused with the effects of multiple illnesses and the medicines used to treat them. (1)
Depression Signs in Older Adults
Depression and sadness can sometimes go hand in hand, but there are things that make them distinctly unique as well depending on the person. When it comes to depressed seniors, many of them claim not to feel sad at all and will instead complain of low motivation, lack of energy, or physical issues. Physical complaints like arthritis pain or worsening headaches are often the symptoms of depression in the elderly. Here are some clues to look for in older adults:
- Unexplained/aggravated aches and pains
- Feelings of hopelessness or helplessness
- Anxiety and worries
- Memory problems
- Lack of motivation/energy
- Slowed movement and speech
- Loss of interest in socializing and general hobbies
- Neglecting personal care
Possible Causes of Depression in Older Adults
Depression isn’t a sign of weakness or a person’s character flaw, despite what they may believe. It can really happen to anybody at any age, no matter the person’s background or previous accomplishments in life. Whether you are 18 or 80, just remember one thing – you don’t have to live with depression. As you grow older, you may face significant life changes that can put you at risk for depression. Causes and risk factors that could be contributing factors could include:
- Health problems: Illness and disability, chronic or severe pain, cognitive decline, or damage to body image due to surgery or disease
- Loneliness and isolation: Living alone, a dwindling social circle due to deaths or relocation, or decreased mobility due to illness or loss of driving privileges
- Reduced sense of purpose: Feelings of purposelessness or loss of identity due to retirement or physical limitations on activities
- Fears: Fear of death or dying, or anxiety over financial problems or health issues
- Recent bereavements: The death of friends, family members, and pets, or the loss of a spouse or partner
Treatment and Self-Help Options
One must always remember that, no matter what the age, you are still able to learn new skills and continue on with a happy life full of new lifestyle changes. It is never too late to get better and get the help you need. Overcoming depression may be as simple as finding new things you enjoy, learning to adapt to changes, staying active, and feeling connected to your community. There are a couple of things you can do:
- Exercise: Physical activity can have mood-boosting effects in people of any age and can be just as effective as antidepressants when it comes to relieving depression
- Connecting with Others: Getting support that one needs can play a big role in lifting the fog of depression and keeping it away. Connecting with others face to face is always an option.
- Bring your life into Balance: If you are easily overwhelmed with the stress and pressures of life, you can learn new emotional management skills.
- Sleep: Getting enough sleep may keep depression symptoms away.
- Learning new Skills: Pick something you’ve always wanted to learn, and give it a go!
If all else fails, there are other options available. Depression treatment is just as effective for elderly adults as it is for younger people. Antidepressant treatments may be available, however, exercise has been proven in many cases to work much better when it comes to the elderly. When it applies to safety in adults and elderly, herbal remedies and natural supplements can often be effective in the treatment of depression. There are many methods that may work for separate people; it’s all about finding the right thing. Nobody, any age, should have to live with depression and its effects! (2)