Signs and Symptoms of Depression in Older Adults and the Elderly

Signs and Symptoms of Depression in Older Adults and the Elderly

Several changes can occur in the later periods of life. Medical problems, retirement, increased isolation, the death of loved ones these incidents have high chances of leading to depression in older adults and the elderly. Depression thwarts older adults and the elderly from living a happy life. It does not only affect the mood, but go far beyond it. Its impact can be observed in your physical health, energy, appetite, and sleep. Older adults and the elderly can take significant steps to overcome depression as it is not an inevitable part of aging. But you might face several challenges in the process.

Signs and Symptoms of Depression in Older Adults and the Elderly

The signs and symptoms aid in acquainting the depression in older adults and the elderly people. Depression signs in older adults and the elderly include:

  • Gloominess
  • Exhaustion
  • Loss of interest or abandoning the pastimes or hobbies that gave pleasure.
  • Isolating and withdrawing from Socialism (losing enthusiasm to be with friends, being part of the activities)
  • Losing weight or loss of hunger
  • Disturbed sleep (difficulty in sleeping or excessive sleeping)
  • Feeling worthless (self-loathing, fear of being a burden, feeling unimportant)
  • Excessive intake of drugs or alcohol
  • Suicidal tendencies, attempting suicide, obsession with death.

Depression in Older Adults and the Elderly Could be Present Without Sadness

In most of the cases, the depression and sadness walk alongside while there are several depressed older adults and the elderly claiming not being sad at all. Instead, the older adults or the elderly complain lack of energy, low enthusiasm or physical problems. For a matter of fact physical issues such as severe headaches, arthritis pain is normally the major symptoms of depression in older adults and the elderly people.

Signs and Symptoms of Depression in Older Adults and the Elderly Even If there is No Sadness

Older adults and the elderly people denying the feeling of sadness or depression may still be suffering from major depression. Some hints to look for:

  • Feeling of helplessness or worthlessness
  • Being worried and anxious
  • Lack of energy and motivation in older adults and the elderly
  • Inexplicable or aggravated pains and aches can be a sign of depression in older adults and the elderly
  • Irritative nature
  • Lack of interest in hobbies and socialism
  • Effects on the speech and movements
  • Negligence in personal care (forgetting medicines, neglecting hygiene, skipping meals) can also be a sign and symptom of depression in older adults and the elderly
  • Memory Troubles.

Depression does not depict weakness or flaw in the character of a person. Anyone can be depressive irrespective of their age or background or previous accomplishments in life. Likewise, challenges that come with age, physical illness does not have to keep you low. There is no need for living with depression whether you are 18 or 80.

Depression in older adults and the elderly can be treated with appropriate treatment and support along with self-help strategies that can make an individual feel better and lead a happy and effervescent living.

Causes of Depression in Older Adults and the Elderly

Significant changes in life will occur as you age and that can push you to the risk of becoming depressive. The factors of risks and causes that add to depression in older adults and the elderly include:

  • Diseases and Conditions. Disability and poor health, rigorous or chronic pain, injury to body structure due to disease or surgery, cognitive impairment etc…
  • Alienation and Withdrawal. Living isolated, reduced social appearance due to relocation or deaths, reduced ability of moving owing to sickness can cause depression in older adults and the elderly.
  • Weakened sense of purpose. Feelings of insignificance or loss of identity because of physical limitations or retirement is also one of the major contributor for depression in older adults and the elderly.
  • Fears. Anxious about health issues or finances, fear of dying or death.
  • Recent Loss. Loss of partner or spouse, Death of family members or companions is known to cause depression in older adults and the elderly.

Sorrow, Loss Can Lead to Depression in Older Adults and the Elderly

One experiences several losses as they become older adults. The loss is painful whether it is loss of health, mobility, independence, a loved one or your long term profession. The feeling of sorrow for these losses is usual and healthy; the feeling of sadness might last for a long time. However, losing the joy and hope entirely is not typical.

It is not easy to differentiate between grief and depression. Since several symptoms for both are common. However, the difference can be sorted out in various ways. Grief involves a broad variety of emotions and combination of bad and good days. Even when you are grieving, you will have moments of happiness or pleasure. While it comes to depression, the feeling of anguish and emptiness are constant.

Although there is no fixed timetable for grieving, if it does not vanish with time or snuff outs all signs of delight such as laughing at a good joke, appreciating beautiful scenes, lightening in response to a hug chances are that you are suffering from depression. Additional symptoms that hint depression and not grief in older adults and the elderly are:

  • Suicidal thoughts or fixation with death.
  • Feeling miserable or helpless
  • Invasive or intense sense of guilt
  • Seeing or things that do not belong to them
  • Deliberate movements of body and speech.
  • The inability of functioning at home or work.

Chronic Medical Illness Can Cause Depression in Older Adults and the Elderly

Chronic medical ailments can cause depression in older adults and the elderly. The depressive feelings in older adults and seniors are often associated with physical illness, which increases the risk of depression. Persistent pain and physical disability can reasonably get you feeling low. Depressive symptoms can also occur due to medical issues such as a side effect of prescription drugs or dementia.

Being aware of the medical problems is essential as it can cause depression in older adults as well as elderly. The effects can be direct or in the form of psychological reaction to illness. An individual with chronic medical conditions such as severe pain, disability or that is life threatening can lead to depression or can worsen the symptoms of depression and these include:

Prescription Medications Might Cause Depression in Older Adults and the Elderly

Long term usage of prescribed medicines can cause depression in older adults and the elderly. Depression symptoms are side effects of several usually prescribed drugs. An individual consuming multiple medications is predominantly at risk of depression. The side effects related to the mood of prescription drugs can affect anyone, but older adults are more sensitive due to their age. With age, the body becomes less effective at metabolizing and handling drugs. Medications that can result into depression or worsen it include:

  • Parkinson’s disease medications
  • Medication for blood pressure (clonidine)
  • Sleeping pills
  • Steroids (e.g., prednisone and cortisone)
  • Medication for Ulcer (Tagamet, Zantac)
  • Drugs for high cholesterol (Zocor, Mevacor, Lipitor)
  • Heart drugs consisting reserpine
  • Painkillers and drugs for arthritis
  • Tranquilizers (Xanax, Valium, Halcion)
  • Calcium channel blockers
  • Beta-blockers (Inderal, Lopressor)
  • Estrogens (Prempro, Premarin)

Talk to your physician if you feel depressed after taking a new medication. The doctor will either prescribe you a new medication or lower your dosage that has no impact on your mood.

Alcohol Consumption Can Cause Depression in Older Adults and the Elderly

Regular consumption of alcohol can cause depression in older adults and the elderly. Many of the older people tend to deal with their emotional and physical pain with consumption of alcohol. It would make them feel less lonely or help them to distract their mind from problems. While some drink at night so that they could have a sound sleep. Alcohol can make one feel better for a short time, but it in a long run can cause problems. The symptoms of depression worsen with the intake of alcohol. It causes anxiety, impair functioning of the brain, irritability. A negative interaction of alcohol can be seen with several medications as well as antidepressants. Drinking can help you doze off, but it can harm the excellence of the sleep.

Treatment for Depression in Older Adults and the Elderly

The treatment of depression is effective for the elderly as it is for the young people. However the cause of depression in elderly and older adults is resultant of challenges or difficult situations in life, the objective of the treatment should be to resolve these issues. The medication alone won’t be sufficient to cure your depression if the cause of the depression is loneliness. Plus any medical issues that complicate depression needs to be dealt.

Anti-Depressant Treatment for Older Adults and the Elderly

Low dose anti-depressant treatment can be very helpful for older adults and the elderly. Older adults are sensitive to the side effects of the drugs and are weak to interactions with other medication as well.

According to the research the SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor) like Prozac can lead to rapid loss of bone and risk of fractures and falls are higher as well. Owing to these reasons of concerning the elderly adults on antidepressant needs to be careful and their dosage needs to be monitored closely.

In several cases, healthy lifestyle, such as exercise along with therapy prove to be as effective as antidepressants in relieving stress eliminating the hazardous reaction of medicines.

Alternative Medications for Treating Depression in Older Adults and the Elderly

In most cases, an effective way of treating depression in older adults and elderly is the natural supplements and herbal remedies. These are much safer than antidepressants. However, some herbal supplements might cause side effects of interaction with some medications. So before starting to take them, consult with your doctor.

  • Folic acid can ease the depressive symptoms in combination with other treatments.
  • SAMe (S-adenosylmethionine) can be used as an alternative to antidepressants to regulate the mood, but in rare cases it causes severe side effects.
  • Omega 3 fatty acids can work as a separate treatment for depression or can boost the effects of the antidepressant.
  • St. John’s wort can aid with moderate or mild symptoms of depression, but must be avoided with antidepressants.

Counseling and Therapy for Treating Depression in Older Adults and the Elderly

Therapy can work wonders on depression adults and the elderly as it deals with the underlying causes of the depression, not just the symptoms.

  • Supportive counseling comprises peer and spiritual counseling. It can reduce loneliness and misery causing depression and assist you in finding new purpose and meaning.
  • Therapy assists to deal with the stressful changes in life, provide a healing effect to your loss, and manage difficult emotions. It can also help you modify your negative thoughts and patterns and generate improved coping abilities.
  • Support groups for ailments, depression and bereavement connects you with other individuals who are going through similar challenges. These are safe places to share your experiences, encouragement, and advice.

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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:April 18, 2019

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