Recognizing the signs of depression in aging people is an important step toward treatment. Symptoms of elderly depression include:
- Aches and pains (causing frequent doctor visits)
- Depressed mood that can manifest as sadness or irritability
- Difficulty concentrating or remembering (sometimes mistaken for dementia)
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Withdrawal from family or once pleasurable activities.
These symptoms are characteristic of most types of depression, and aging individuals may show other symptoms, including signs of preparing for the end of life. People with old age and depression may:
- Believe that they have no reason to continue living
- Give away possessions
- Refuse to take medication
- Say goodbye to friends or relatives
- Think about or discuss suicide, or have an unusual focus on death.
Depression and Aging Populations: Contributing Factors
Depression in aging populations has a number of causes, including chemical imbalances in the brain and environmental factors. Loss of function or independence associated with the aging process may also contribute to elderly depression.
In addition, depression may result from diagnosis of a terminal or debilitating illness, such as cancer or macular degeneration. Loss of social connections, or death of a spouse or close friend, is also more common in elderly populations and may contribute to depression in aging populations.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Elderly Depression
Though it is common in the elderly, depression can be treated. A visit to the doctor can help to make a differential diagnosis of depression. Because aging adults are at risk for many medical problems, you need to rule out other problems that may be causing the symptoms.
However, depression can coincide with other serious medical conditions. In these cases, depression can delay recovery, and treatment of depression symptoms is vital to both medical health and quality of life. Depression can be treated with antidepressant drugs, psychotherapy and other therapies. If you or a loved one is suffering from elderly depression symptoms, youâ€™ll want to see a doctor to develop a customized course of treatment.
Healthy Place Staff. (2008). Depression in elderly. Retrieved May 12, 2010, from the Healthy Place website: www.healthyplace.com/depression/elderly/depression-in-elderly/menu-id-68/.
National Institute of Mental Health Staff. (n.d.). Older adults: Depression and suicide facts (fact sheet). Retrieved May 12, 2010, from the National Institute of Mental Health website: www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/older-adults-depression-and-suicide-facts-fact-sheet/index.shtml.
Suicide Awareness Voices of Education Staff. (n.d.). Retrieved May 12, 2010, from the SAVE website: www.save.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=home.viewpage&page_id=a82dfca2-afe8-3478-1a4e1f9445d46407.