Depression in Seniors

When you think of disease in senior citizens, you most likely consider such chronic physical diseases as congestive heart failure, cancer, diabetes, and dementia. However, some of the health problems that seniors face lie farther beneath the surface. It may surprise you to learn just how many seniors deal with mental health problems and how many go through regular bouts of depression. In fact, over 6.5 million individuals over the age of 65 are affected by depression. Many of these people did not suffer from depression earlier in their lives but only developed it in later years. Despite the prevalence of this mental health condition, it should not be viewed as a normal part of the aging process. Instead, it should be seen as a problem that requires long-lasting interventions to improve quality of life.

The symptoms of depression in older adults may be difficult to see because other health conditions and medications could produce the same symptoms. Plus, the symptoms may not be the same as those that are seen in younger adults.

Some of the most common symptoms of depression in seniors include the following:

  • Memory concerns and confusion
  • Poor sleep quality
  • Delusions and hallucinations
  • Weight loss
  • Poor appetite
  • Mood changes
  • Extreme sadness
  • Decreased socialization

However, not all depressed seniors will complain of feeling sad or down. If you are a caregiver for an elderly person, you should be on the lookout for any of these other lesser-known symptoms and should seek complete mental health care immediately. In addition, you can look for ways to keep the affected senior engaged with society and can help foster face-to-face connections. Dietary changes, improved bedtime routines, and increased exercise may also be able to help raise one’s mood. However, these lifestyle changes alone may not be enough to help a senior feel completely better. He or she may also need therapy, medications, or other help from a mental health professional.

Keep in mind that without proper help, seniors with depression may be more at risk for a variety of other diseases and health concerns. Not only is depression associated with suicide, but also it can increase the risk for cardiac disease, including heart attacks. Therefore, if you are concerned about a family member or loved one whom you care for, be sure to reach out to a mental health care provider to seek quick and proper care.
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