Everyone can get the blues from time to time, but real depression needs to be monitored and treated. The truth is, seniors can fall into depression for many reasons: losing a loved one, dealing with an illness, medications, or just the aging process in general. With that in mind, here are some tips for caregivers to assist with elderly depression care.
The unfortunate reality is that about 20% of seniors over the age of fifty-five have some sort of mental health issue. Many of these individuals deal with depression. It has been shown that mental health issues are often a factor in suicide.
It is not surprising that women and especially men in this age group do not want to discuss or admit to being depressed, but according to the CDC’s report on the State of Mental Health and Aging in America, older men have the highest suicide rate of any other group, with men over the age of eighty-five having a suicide rate of 45 out of a group of 100,000. To put that into perspective, the overall rate is 11 out of 100,000 for all ages combined.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) acknowledges that senior depression often goes untreated. This is due in large part because it can present itself as a natural part of a chronic illness, or the symptoms are misdiagnosed at early signs of another disease such as dementia or Alzheimer’s. The good news is that once geriatric depression symptoms have been correctly diagnosed, 80% of cases are treated effectively by medication and psychotherapy.
Signs to Watch For in Senior Adults
By understanding and watching for signs of depression in your loved ones, you can catch the early symptoms of elderly depression. You can encourage your loved one to seek qualified, medical and professional help and treatment before they become chronically depressed.
Some common symptoms to watch for include the following:
- Unusual fatigue
- Losing interest in favorite activities
- Withdrawing from social activities
- Unexplained weight loss
- Changes in sleep habits – sleeping more or not being able to sleep
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Suicidal thoughts or attempts (www.helpguide.org)
Keeping Depression at Bay in Older Adults
The best way to battle depression is to stop it before it begins if possible, and even if a loved one is already showing signs of depression, there are ways to help life your them deal with their symptoms.
- Carry photos of loved ones – A study by UCLA psychologists mentioned that that simply looking at a picture of a loved one can reduce pain.
- Seek out new friends – Having a strong social network is key to fighting depression. As one ages, they can lose friends, so getting involved in activities with new people can lead to new friendships.
- Spend some time online – Some studies show that spending time online maintaining relationships with family and friends can reduce depression in seniors by 20%.
- Get your exercise – While an older adult might not be able to exercise like they once could, they can still incorporate some kind of exercise into their days. Walking or seated strength training are great options, and studies show exercise improves both a person’s health and quality of life.
While everyone feels down at one time or another, it is important to distinguish the difference between just feeling blue and more serious clinical depression when it comes to the older adults in your life. With treatment and encouragement, depression in seniors can be reduced or even eliminated, so it is important to keep an eye out for it and act when you see it.