Depression is a period of sadness, irritability, or low motivation that occurs with other symptoms.  It can last at least two weeks in a row, and can be debilitating and life threatening.  According to research, nearly one in five Americans over the age of 65 struggles with depression. Older adults are often hesitant to seek help for depression so it’s important that you take notice and take the lead in getting him/her to see his/her doctor.

Seniors are vulnerable to social isolation that are sometimes caused because of life changes that can include:

  • A move from home, such as to a retirement facility
  • Chronic illness or pain
  • Children moving away
  • Loss of spouse, partner or close friends
  • Loss of independence (for example, problems getting around or caring for oneself)

Some Symptoms of Depression

Emotions:

  • Sadness
  • Hopelessness
  • Guilt
  • Moodiness
  • Angry outbursts
  • Loss of interest in friends, family and favorite activities, including sex

Thoughts:

  • Trouble concentrating
  • Trouble making decisions
  • Trouble remembering
  • Thoughts of harming yourself
  • Delusions and/or hallucinations can also occur in cases of severe depression

Behaviors:

  • Withdrawing from people
  • Substance abuse
  • Missing work, school or other commitments
  • Attempts to harm yourself

Physical problems:

  • Tiredness or lack of energy
  • Unexplained aches and pains
  • Changes in appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Weight gain
  • Changes in sleep – sleeping too little or too much
  • Sexual problems

How you can help

Visit as Often as Possible:  Interpersonal relationships are vital to overall health and well-being.  Make every effort to visit your loved ones as frequently as possible.  If you live away and find that you cannot visit as often as you would like, arrange to have a friend or neighbor visit at least twice a week.

Adopt a Pet.  A pet offers unconditional love and can bring tremendous comfort and companionship.

Using Technology.  Call your loved ones often.  Many seniors are up-to-date on current social technology and are able to connect using Face Time, Appear and Skype to have face-to-face conversations.

Depression in the elderly can oftentimes be confused with the effects of the medicines they take, so if you believe your loved one is suffering from depression, don’t delay, contact his or her doctor today.