Depression is a medical condition that is common in many elderly individuals. While it’s normal to be sad or upset when diagnosed with a terminal illness or faced with the loss of a loved one, depression in elderly years should never be considered a normal part of this stage of life. Depression, left untreated, can lead to serious consequences.
Depression and Elderly Physical Health
Elderly depression, left untreated, can lead to impaired cognitive ability, as well as increased risk for other medical problems, including stroke and heart attack. Other effects of depression, such as decreased social interaction and physical activity may also worsen overall well-being.
Elderly people are more likely to see a doctor for other ailments or the physical effects of depression, rather than specifically request geriatric depression treatment. Therefore, most doctors will consider depression when treating elderly patients.
Suicide and Depression in Elderly People
The National Institute of Mental Health reports that individuals over 65 are 1.3 times more likely to commit suicide than the general population. The risk of suicide increases with depression in elderly populations. Recognizing suicide risk factors can help you to prevent a loved one from harming himself. Some of these unsafe thoughts and behaviors include:
- Expressing a desire to end oneÃ•s life
- Planning for the end of life
- Preoccupation with death
- Saying goodbye to loved ones
- Stockpiling medications, or refusing to comply with medication regimens.
What to Do if You See Suicidal Effects of Depression
People who notice depression symptoms in elderly loved ones may want to protect them by removing dangerous medications or weapons from the house. If you’re an older individual suffering from suicidal effects of depression and you feel a desire to hurt or kill yourself, speak to someone you trust right away. Sources of support include:
- Family members
- Spiritual leaders or advisors
- Suicide prevention hotlines.
Geriatric Depression Treatment Options
Geriatric depression, left untreated, can be quite dangerous. If you experience these feelings, your doctor can help you to manage your symptoms with psychotherapy or antidepressants. Your family and friends may also provide additional social support. These geriatric depression treatment options can help to relieve the effects of depression in elderly people, and reduce harmful thoughts or desires.
Geriatric Mental Health Foundation Staff. (n.d.). Depression late in life: Not a normal part of aging. Retrieved May 17, 2010, from the Geriatric Mental Health Foundation website: www.gmhfonline.org/gmhf/consumer/factsheets/depression_latelife.html.
Health Central Staff. (n.d.). Complications of depression. Retrieved May 17, 2010, from the Health Central website: www.healthcentral.com/depression/treatment-000008_4-145.html.
National Alliance on Mental Illness Staff. (n.d.). Depression in older persons fact sheet. Retrieved May 18, 2010, from the National Alliance on Mental Illness website: www.nami.org/Template.cfm?Section=By_Illness&template=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=7515.