Healthy Living

Coping with Geriatric Depression

What is Geriatric Depression?

Geriatric depression is a mental and emotional disorder that affects seniors.  Every stage of life has its own set of challenges and aging is no exception. In fact, significant major changes surface and occur later life, such as the death of a loved one, retirement, medical problems, and increased isolation.  Feelings of sadness are normal, but lasting depression is certainly not a part of aging. 

Facts Related To Depression in Elderly Individuals

The studies have found that the elderly are more likely to suffer from subsyndromal depression, a depressive state that have one or two symptoms of major depression, but doesn’t meet its full criteria. However, if left untreated, it can lead to major depression. According to The National Institute for Mental Health, as many as 5 million elderly people in the United States suffer from subsyndromal depression.

It has also been found that depressed elderly are at high risk of committing suicides. According to National Institute of Mental Health, although elderly people comprise only 12% of the U.S. population, they accounted for 16% of all suicides in 2004.

Causes of Geriatric Depression

In the case of seniors, depression is often magnified by other medical problems such as Parkinson’s disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, and arthritis. Apart from that, the condition can also be associated with biological social and psychological factors.

  • Traumatic life events such as death of a loved one
  • Retirement
  • Financial hardships
  • Prolonged substance abuse
  • Widowhood or divorce
  • Chronic medical conditions
  • A family history of depression

Symptoms of Geriatric Depression

  • Extreme sadness
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of interest in pleasurable pastimes
  • Isolation and social withdrawal
  • Weight loss or loss of appetite
  • Physical aches and pains
  • Irritability, aggressiveness, and restlessness
  • Sleep Disorders
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs
  • Suicidal thoughts or attempts

Treatment of Geriatric Depression

Just as depression symptoms vary from person-to-person, so does the treatment. Typical treatment involves a combination of medication, psychotherapy, and lifestyle changes.

Some of the dedications used to treat depression are:

  • Selective serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors
  • Tricyclic antidepressants
  • Mirtazapine
  • Bupropion

Lifestyle changes suggested to treat depression are:

  • Finding a new hobby or indulging in interesting activities
  • Increasing physical activity and doing exercises
  • Having regular visits to family and friends home
  • Getting enough sleep daily
  • Eating a well-balanced, nutritious diet

Psychotherapy, when you speak with a trained therapist in a private setting can also help address the issues of the elderly.

Living With A Depressed Elder

Sometimes it becomes quite difficult for family members to deal with the excessively irritating and aggressive behavior of a depressed elderly person. The other medical problems may worsen the situation and put a great effect on the lives of other family members too. However, the only thing that family members can do to treat this problem is continuously give enough love and care to their elders. Encourage treatment and extend support to help your loved ones live a healthy and happy life.