As you get older, your body and mind go through many different changes. It's not surprising that some of these changes can lead to depression. However, depression isn't a normal thing, and it should not be ignored.
Depression is often caused by an imbalance of chemicals in the brain, and unchecked, it can lead to thoughts of suicide.
According to WebMD, 6 million people in America over the age of 65 will be affected by late-life depression. 10 percent of them will get treatment. One of the reasons why treatment doesn't happen is that the elderly display their depression symptoms differently than others.
Signs and Symptoms of Depression in the Elderly
While sadness can be a sign of depression, sadness and depression are not synonymous with one another. You may still be suffering from depression even though you're not really feeling “sad” or lonely.
There are many other signs and symptoms, including the following:
- You may suffer from pains that you are unable to explain. They can come out of nowhere.
- Depression and lack of concentration are common
- Sudden weight loss can be a sign of depression, as can a sudden or gradual loss of appetite.
- You may stop having an interest in friends or hobbies. This could be because of depression, lack of confidence, or because you are in too much pain to find enjoyment in the things you once loved.
- Depression can cause feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness.
- Depression can affect the ability to stay asleep, it can cause you to spend most of the day sleeping, it can cause daytime drowsiness, and it can give you insomnia too.
- Sleep disturbances, which can include difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, oversleeping, or daytime sleepiness are signs that something is wrong.
- In the elderly, depression can also cause memory problems and slowness in speech and movement.
- Older people suffering from depression may skip their medications, and do the same neglect of personal hygiene and care that anyone with depression might.
Causes of Elderly Depression
You may think that once you're older, there will be fewer reasons to be depressed – you have the luxury of retirement and fewer responsibilities. However, there are all sorts of things that can happen that can make someone feel depressed.
From injuries to loss of confidence, depression can affect anyone at any age. Below are some situations that can trigger elderly depression:
1. Loss of Confidence in Old Age
You're older now, and you may not be able to do all of the things you could when you were younger. Elderly people can find it difficult to do things, even things they once loved and were passionate about, because of mobility issues and memory issue. In can make you worried that you'll hurt yourself or forget something.
2. Sudden Loss of Mobility in Elderly
It can be depressing to break a bone at any age, but when you find yourself immobile in your older years, it is more devastating. For one thing, recovery time takes much longer the older you get. Once you break one bone or learn that you are in a more fragile state, this can add to your depression and lack of confidence. It begins to seem like a never-ending cycle.
Helping Elderly Parents with Depression
In order to help the elderly people in your life, you need to be able to recognize the signs of depression. If they don't ever want to leave the house, quit working on the garden, and seem to not have the ambition to even take care of themselves anymore, you have some distinct signs that something is wrong.
The first step to helping the older people in your life with depression is letting them know you're there and that you care. Then you need to have them see a doctor. They may need medication or therapy to get through their depression.
Once that's done, encourage them to do activities again and spend time with people in their peer group. They may need assistance to attend events or meetings, which can come from family or a nurse. For those will mobility issues, it could be time to invest in a scooter or some other way to get around easier.
Don't leave it all on them though – make sure you're visiting and spending time with them also. Their depression could stem from a lack of family interaction just as much as all of the other issues.
Suicide Prevention for Elderly Depression
If you have thoughts of suicide, there is help. You are not alone. Call the suicide hotline and reach out to your friends and family for help.
Suicide is never the answer.