Is Medication for Depression the Right Choice for Seniors?

Depression affects over 6 percent of Americans today. While it tends to affect those in younger age brackets more than it does seniors, older adults are certainly not immune to depression. Estimates suggest that only 1 to 5 percent of seniors still living at home or in a community setting are depressed. However, these numbers nearly triple among seniors who live in nursing homes or who are hospitalized. Depression should never be overlooked, and seniors dealing with this mental concern should certainly seek out treatments. Surprisingly, though, medication may not be the right answer for seniors.

For some seniors, antidepressant medications may bring along several unwanted side effects. For example, certain drugs can increase the risk of falls in seniors who already have a history of balance issues. Other common side effects from antidepressants include anxiety, difficulty sleeping, gastrointestinal pain, and poor sexual function. 

Effects and Side-Effects of Antidepressants

While many side effects of antidepressants are the same in older adults as they are in younger adults, a few key concerns should be noted. First, seniors often have trouble ridding drugs from their bodies. Therefore, these drugs may gradually build up in the body, leading to increased side effects. Second, some research has shown that seniors taking such medications as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, also called SSRIs, which are a common treatment for depression, had increased negative events, such as falls and fractures, when compared to seniors taking placebos.

Thankfully, there are other treatment options for seniors struggling with depression. Cognitive behavioral therapy often works well for this population. In addition, many seniors can benefit from certain lifestyle changes, such as improved bedtime routines and increased exercise, which can naturally raise their positive brain chemical levels.

If you are an older adult struggling with feeling down much of the time or if you have lost your appetite and your interest in some of your favorite activities, you may be dealing with depression. Be sure to see your geriatric specialist, or schedule an appointment with a psychologist who specializes in working with older adults so that you can find the best treatment for you. If you are prescribed antidepressant medications, be sure to tell your medical provider about any unwanted or uncomfortable side effects that you notice. The goal of any therapy is to help you feel your very best so that you can enjoy your life.
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