Many older adults suffer from depression but may go undiagnosed because their symptoms are taken for signs of slowing down due to old age. In addition, people sometimes see feeling sad as just a part of old age.
However, depression is not a normal part of getting older. It is a medical condition that can and should be treated. The first step in getting your aging relative the help they need is to recognize the symptoms and know if they are suffering from depression.
Causes of Depression
Depression can be a result of the major life changes that many older adults go through. Some things that can lead to depression in the elderly are:
Recent Losses: The death of a spouse, relative, friend, or a pet.
Health Problems: Illness, disability, chronic pain, or cognitive problems.
Loneliness: Loss of a social circle due to deaths or moving away, being homebound, or living alone.
Fear: Fear of death, financial problems, loss of independence, or illness.
Lack of Sense of Purpose: Feeling like they have no purpose because of retirement or being unable to do activities because of illness or disability.
Symptoms of Depression in the Elderly
Not everyone with depression experiences the same symptoms. In addition, the symptoms of depression can be difficult to identify in older adults. Some signs to watch for include:
- The senior feels sad or has a sense of despair.
- They complain of aches and pains, but there doesn’t seem to be a medical reason.
- Worries about being a burden or feeling worthless.
- Unexplained weight loss or not wanting to eat.
- Losing interest in socializing or hobbies.
- Lack of energy.
- Moving or speaking more slowly than usual.
- Drinking more alcohol or taking certain medications inappropriately, such as sleeping pills or painkillers.
- Memory problems.
- Not taking care of themselves, such as poor hygiene, missing meals, or forgetting to take medications.
Don’t rely on the senior saying they feel sad as a sign of depression. Many older adults with depression say they do not feel sad. Instead, they complain about not having energy, not feeling motivated, or physical problems, like pain.
If your older family member is diagnosed with depression, home care can help them better manage the condition. A home care provider can offer emotional support and someone to talk to. Home care providers can also help to reduce stress and loneliness that can lead to depression. And, home care providers can remind the older adult when it is time to take medications for depression.