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Recognizing Depression in the Elderly

Did you know that a fourth of people who are retirement age report symptoms of depression? Studies show that when our elderly population visits their doctor for routine physical concerns, the issue of depression often comes up. When depression goes untreated, it can cause the physical problems an elderly person has to become worse.

Depression among the elderly has many causes. Sometimes it’s caused by a disability that has made life more difficult as they decline. Still, others may be taking on feelings of guilt for having to depend on their caretakers. Dementia is also a big cause of depression among our seniors. Each of these causes does have good solutions, so let’s look at them:

  • Identifying Depression - Depression can be tough to diagnose, especially when there are more pressing physical ailments. Since the only person qualified to diagnose depression properly is a physician, be sure to provide the doctor with complete medical records and history. Often, the side effects of certain treatments for other medical problems can cause depression.
  • Avoid A lot of alcohol – You might not think of alcoholism being a problem among the elderly generation, but it has become more and more serious in recent years. Having a glass of wine with an evening meal is perfectly fine, but often, elderly people use alcohol as a means to cope with more serious physical ailments or other emotional pain. This can easily lead to depression, as can the use of other things such as pain medications.
  • Treat Sleep Disorders – Millions of Americans struggle with insomnia and many of these people are senior citizens. Any time elderly people don’t get the REM sleep they need, depression is often the result. Simple measures such as retiring and rising at the same times each day can make a huge impact on sleep.
  • Spend Time with Loved Ones – Let’s face it—nobody needs to spend too much time by themselves. Loneliness breeds depression, so if you suspect your elderly loved on isn’t getting enough social interaction, be sure to arrange for friends and family members to stop in and visit regularly. Photo albums and framed pictures can also help seniors feel more connected to the people and memories that mean the most to them.

Depression vs. Grieving

Most people will have lost at least a couple of people who are close to them by the time retirement age comes. In cases of a premature death, the person is often a spouse. It’s important to know how grief can look very similar to depression. If you are concerned that your elderly loved ones are suffering from depression, please get a proper medical diagnosis by taking them to visit their doctor. If you suspect that the depression is from grief, there are many support groups available to ease them through this process. If you are not sure how to find a support group, funeral homes often have lists of people who specialize in doing just this.

For more information on depression in the elderly and how to identify and cope with it, please visit our website or call us today!