Opinion

Depression in the elderly | Sandra Cook

Sandra Cook - Contributed
Sandra Cook
— image credit: Contributed

As people age, changes in life can often lead to mood changes. Retirement, death of a loved one, health issues and a loss of independence are just some of the changes that occur later in life, which may contribute to depression. Depression prevents a person from enjoying life as they used to and promotes a loss of interest in the activities that were once fulfilling.

Depression may also impact a person’s energy level, sleep schedule, appetite and overall physical health. While aging is a normal process, depression does not need to be an inevitable part of life. No matter the challenges faced, there are ways to overcome depression among the elderly.

Common causes of depression in the elderly

As a person grows older they often face significant life changes, which increase the risk for depression. Risk factors that contribute to depression among the elderly include:

• Fear – preoccupation with death and dying, health issues or financial security

• Grief – bereavement and the grief associated with the death of a loved one

• Health problems – chronic pain, illness or cognitive decline

• Loneliness – a dwindling social circle as one ages may contribute to depression

• Loss of purpose – reduced sense of purpose and identity due to increased limitations

Signs of depression in the elderly

In order to recognize the signs and symptoms of depression in an elderly loved one, you must be aware of what to look for. Red flags of depression include:

• Continual sadness that does not improve

• Overall fatigue and tiredness, even upon awaking in the morning

• Sleep disturbances and a difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep or experiencing daytime sleepiness

• Feelings of worthlessness and self-loathing

• Fixation on death or suicidal tendencies

• Weight loss and appetite suppression

Some depressed seniors report no feelings of sadness accompanied with depression, but claim a lack of motivation, decreased energy, or a wide array of physical problems. Among the elderly, physical problems, such as arthritis, headaches and overall body pain are predominantly associated with depression.

If an elderly loved one shows signs of depression, you can make a difference by offering emotional care and support. It is important to listen to your loved one, never criticize their feelings and offer compassion during this time. Appropriate treatment is available.

Sandra Cook is the marketing director for Aegis Lodge in Kirkland. Contact her at 425-814-2841.

 

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