The importance of addressing the signs of depression in seniors
Depression is a common issue among older adults, but it’s not a normal part of aging. Currently, about 7 million Americans over the age of 65 have reported signs and symptoms of depression. Has a senior close to you expressed uneasiness, sadness, or stress due to recent life changes?
Your loved one might be going through a difficult time, and you might not even know it. Many seniors feel ashamed when they experience sadness. There’s a stigma around mental health that has existed for centuries, and it’s high time that society gets over that hump.
Growing old can feel incredibly lonely. As people age, friends and family members start to pass away. Daily activities, such as shopping for groceries, become progressively challenging when individuals develop mobility issues and severe conditions like Alzheimer's.
There are many reasons why seniors experience depression — aging can be incredibly overwhelming.
The Causes of Depression in Seniors
Many people experience depression as a side effect of other concurrent mental health issues. These people may have mood disorders such as Bipolar Disorder or Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and bouts of depression might not be such a shock for their family members (although still serious and should be addressed). These disorders are due to brain chemistry or even family genetics.
However, many other seniors experience depression or anxiety for the very first time in their older years. Causes for this include:
- Feelings of isolation and loneliness
- Constant financial worry due to limited funds and living off of a small, government pension
- Living in perpetual physical pain caused by illness and disease
- Fear of getting older and what the future might hold
Conversations about mental health are never easy with seniors because many older adults don’t want to discuss feelings with others. Many might consider it a burden. However, if you notice anything unusual about your loved one, it’s essential to approach them — with compassion and kindness — and ask them if they’d like to talk about what’s going on.
The Symptoms of Depression in Seniors
The signs and symptoms of depression can be subtle, but it’s often easy to see personality changes in someone you love. Talk to their doctor if you’re concerned that something might be going on. And if you believe that they’re lonely, consider hiring a professional home healthcare service such as Integracare — they provide at-home personal support and compassionate caregivers that come right to your loved one’s home. They provide engaging companionship and can be there when you can’t, and can help you to spot depression in your friend or family member.
There are several symptoms to look for, but here are some common signs of depression in seniors:
- They're withdrawn and don't engage with friends.
- Eating habits have changed, and you've noticed that they've lost weight.
- They’ve become very irritable and even angry at times.
- When you visit them, the house is untidy. The curtains and blinds are always drawn.
- It looks like they've stopped caring about their physical appearance — perhaps there are dark circles under their eyes due to lack of sleep.
Depression is a dark place to be, but it doesn’t last forever. With a little compassion, understanding, and long-term professional support, your loved one will soon feel like themselves again.