How Can Depression Look Different In Older Adults
“Depression is feeling like you’ve lost something, but having no clue when or where you last had it. Then one day you realize you’ve lost yourself.”
It is no secret that depression has a serious impact on the lives of many. However, we tend to not recognize that depression has no age limit. So often we link depression with hardships and life transitions in our formative years. We categorize times in our lives that we feel we may struggle with it, even perhaps anticipating a mid-life crisis. The truth is, depression does not always occur at a specific time or under certain conditions. Depressive symptoms are often thought to be a normal part of the aging process, but this is simply not the case. The only way to change this narrative is to become aware of the signs of depression among an older population.
Prevalence of Depression in Older Adults
Depression in older adults is widespread. In fact, sources predict that it impacts more than 60% of the senior population. This high percentage is owed to the fact that older adults typically have a higher rate of chronic illness, which elevates the risk of depression. The factors that may lead to depression can make recognizing the symptoms of the disease more challenging. Similarly, you might attribute changes in their personality to the result of these traumas rather than as depression symptoms.
Causes of Depression in Older Adults
While depression in older adults can be caused by hereditary factors, it can also be brought on by loss and trauma. Those who lose a spouse, for example, or begin to lose touch with friends as they age, might begin to experience depressive episodes. The impact of injuries or major medical events such as surgery or heart attacks or the onset of dementia can also result in depression.
Symptoms of Depression in Older Adults
Depression can be as simple as feeling sad for two weeks or more. There are additional symptoms, though, that might suggest someone is suffering from depression. These might include:
- sudden increase in irritability or anger
- overwhelming sense of fatigue or lack of energy
- rapid change in body weight
- abandonment of activities that were once enjoyed
- inability to sleep
- lack of concentration or the ability to focus
Help for Depression
If an older adult in your life is exhibiting these symptoms, there are plenty of resources to help them:
- Develop a Treatment Plan – Coming up with a road map for how to approach treatment can help the process seem less overwhelming. A great first step is to look into your loved one’s insurance and see what aspects of their treatment are covered. If your loved one is over the age of 65 and qualifies for Medicare, you may be eligible for depression treatment services including diagnostic tests, medication management, and psychiatric care.
- Find a Trusted Mental Health Professional – Having a connection with mental health professionals is crucial. Without an honest and open relationship, therapists and doctors are unable to ask the right questions to assess the state of an older adult and develop a plan for their treatment.
- Speak Up – Encourage your loved one to speak with a counselor. Have them join a support group that might help them understand their depression and appreciate that they are not alone in their struggle.
- Lifestyle Changes – Finally, you might want to discuss lifestyle changes that might aid in their recovery. Everything from adding exercise to extracting potentially detrimental people in their lives can support the overall depression recovery plan.
While the signs of depression in older adults can sometimes be masked by other conditions or life events, uncovering them can help those suffering from the disease. They will overcome it and return to a normal life. It can be a challenging journey, but one that is well worth it.
Guest Writer Bio
Christian Worstell is a freelance writer who covers health and lifestyle topics for a range of blogs and media outlets. When he’s not behind the desk, he can usually be found on a golf course or spending time with his family.