Depression is common later in life. However, it is a myth that it is just part of the aging process. Life events and experiences that happen with older adults can lead to depression. Examples include death of a loved one, loss and isolation due to changes in physical health, career or social activities. Depression is not just a way to describe a person who is feeling sad or down, it can also affect a person’s energy, sleep, appetite and general physical health.
Common signs and symptoms of depression in older adults are:
- Unexplained aches and pains (back, stomach, arms, legs, head, chest)
- Loss of appetite
- Difficulty sleeping
- Weight changes
- Blurred vision and dizziness
- Heart racing and anxiety
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering or thinking clearly
- Overall sadness, apathy or loss of self worth
- Increased use of alcohol or other drugs to self medicate
- Lack of motivation, interest and energy in socializing, hobbies and activities
- Personal care and hygiene neglect
- Talk about suicide or hopelessness — “I have nothing to live for.” “I don’t want to be a burden to my family.”
Sometimes depression can be mistaken for other illnesses. Untreated or mistreated depression can result in suicide, so it is crucial that you seek help from a medical professional if you suspect that you or a loved one may be suffering from depression.
Things that can cause depression in older adults:
- Health problems
- Loneliness and isolation
- Bereavement and loss
- Sense of lack of purpose
Prevention – What you can do:
- If you feel sad for long periods of time, have trouble sleeping or eating or always feel tired, tell your doctor or nurse.
- Ask your doctor or nurse about talking to a mental health specialist.
- Talk to your family, friends, priest, pastor, rabbi or other clergy about feeling sad or depressed.
- Talk about your past with family members and friends. Share memories, look through photographs, scrapbooks and saved newspaper clippings.
- Get out of bed each morning, wash up and change your clothes.
- Eat well everyday, make sure you have a good mix of all food groups and drink plenty of water.
- Check with your doctor about exercises and meditation.
- Exercise your mind with crossword puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, math problems and trivia games.
- Engage in activities that please you such as walks, gardening or reading.
- Listen to music you like, play old records, turn the radio on, watch a favorite movie or television show.
Note: The NICHE for Patient+Family Encyclopedia provides links to third party web sites, however, NICHE does not recommend and or endorse any products or any of the content on any third party websites.