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Depression in Older Adults

Posted In: FAQ by on April 28th, 2010 | No Comments

What is Depression?

Many people feel sad at different points in their lives, but depression is different than temporary sadness. Clinical depression is categorized as a mood disorder. The feelings that develop during depression such as sadness, loss, anger, or frustration interfere with a person’s everyday life for an extended length of time. An older adult with depression may also feel discouraged or worthless. There are many older adults who suffer from this illness and at numerous times it is undiagnosed, because symptoms of depression may be different in older adults and there are possible apprehensions when admitting to symptoms.

Is depression a normal part of growing old?

No. Depression is not normal for any person at any age. There are many stressful events that may happen as a person ages such as, financial worries, possible long-term care, illness, and many more, but depression is not in direct relation with aging. The majority of older adults claim to be satisfied with their lives.

What are the signs of depression in older adults?

If any of these symptoms persist for more than 2 weeks a doctor should be contacted:

  • An “empty” feeling, ongoing sadness, and anxiety.
  • Tiredness, lack of energy.
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in everyday activities, including sex.
  • Sleep problems, including very early morning waking.
  • Problems with eating and weight (gain or loss).
  • Frequent crying.
  • Aches and pains that just won’t go away.
  • A hard time focusing, remembering, or making decisions.
  • Feeling that the future looks grim; feeling guilty, helpless, or worthless.
  • Being irritable.
  • Thoughts of death or suicide; a suicide attempt.

Some of these symptoms may be normal experiences of aging such as, a change in sleep patterns and aches and pains. Although these symptoms may be related to other issues they should still be addressed with a doctor if they persist over an extended period of time.

What are the causes of depression?

There are several possible causes of depression. Depression can be caused by a significant life altering event such as a death of a loved one, losing the freedom of a driver’s license, or having to move into long-term care. Depression can also be caused by an illness, medications, and in some cases there is no clear reason for the depression. Once a cause is determined a suitable treatment can be administered.

How should depression be treated?

First, the older adult experiencing the depression must realize that a problem exists. Once the older adult has come to accept there is a problem that needs to be treated they should contact their family physician. The physician should research the patient’s medication history to see if they have taken anything that has a side effect of depression. If there is no relation to medication then the physician may recommend a mental health professional for further treatment. They may also recommend a specialist in geriatric psychology. A mental health professional has possible treatments of therapy and medications.

For More Information

Contact the Center for Advocacy for the Rights and Interests of the Elderly at (215) 545-5728. CARIE is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping older people and those who care for them.

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