What is depression?
Depression is a mood disorder that causes an individual to feel sad, lonely, lost, angry, hopeless, or frustrated daily. These severe emotions can interfere with the individual's everyday life. For elders, depression can arise through hard life experiences, like losing a spouse, living with chronic diseases, or moving from a place that they once loved. All of these experiences can lead to depression.
People who are at risk of depression:
- Older women
- Those who have lost their partners
- Those who do not have a family or friends for support
- Those who have suffered from a medical condition, like a heart attack, stroke, or chronic pain
- Those who are alcoholics
Depression and older adults
Depression, if left untreated, can last for several years, especially in older adults. This can result in physical and mental health issues. Seniors who are depressed may have strained relationships with others. Many studies show that depression in adults is the major cause of suicide in U.S. compared to other age groups.
Symptoms of depression
The symptoms of depression in elders include:
- Being forgetful
- Being withdrawn
- Lack of concentration
- Lack of energy
- A feeling of hopelessness
- Difficult sleeping
- Loss of appetite
Diagnosis of depression in elders
This condition is often ignored in elders, due to a variety of reasons, such as:
- It is considered a part of aging and tends to not be taken seriously.
- The symptoms resemble that of other common ailments that are associated with old age. For example, forgetfulness is associated with dementia and not depression.
- Certain medications that adults take may cause depression.
- Patients may not report this condition, as they sometimes feel that it is a character flaw.
- Visiting a doctor can get expensive, so many people decide to ignore that option.
Diagnosis of depression
Mental health assessments are the best ways to diagnose this condition in older adults. Doctors may also do a physical exam, along with the mental assessment. Physicians generally ensure that depression is not caused by any other underlying medical conditions, like stroke, dementia, hypothyroidism, or vitamin B12 deficiency.
Treatment of depression in older adults
Depression is usually treated with a combination of medicines, therapy, and counseling. Starting the treatment early is more efficient, and treatments for depression help to control other medical problems that are common in elders.
While using any prescribed antidepressants, an individual must understand that:
- Antidepressants do not have drug interactions with other medication they might be taking.
- Antidepressants do not have severe side effects.
- Antidepressants do not take long a time to begin working
- Depression is commonly undiagnosed in elders.
- Depression can develop with age if the individual loses a loved one, loses their spouse, and suffers from multiple medical conditions.
- The symptoms of depression in elders include but are not limited to, a lack of concentration, lack of energy, fatigue, and difficulty sleeping.