Depression and Seniors

Senior depression has proved especially devastating among older adults because the disease has been so misunderstood in that population. Left alone, depression not only prevents older adults from enjoying life like they could be, it also takes a heavy toll on health. But if you learn to spot the signs of depression and find effective ways to help, you or your loved ones can remain happy and vibrant throughout the golden years

Signs of Depression change as we grow older. The difficult changes that are a part of the ageing process—such as the death of a spouse or medical problems—can lead to depression, especially in those without a strong support system. But depression is not a normal or necessary part of aging. In fact, most seniors are satisfied with their lives despite the challenges of growing old.

Senior Depression is not a result of normal aging. Loss is painful—whether a loss of independence, mobility, health, your long-time career, or someone you love. Grieving over these losses is normal, even if the feelings of sadness last for weeks or months. Losing all hope and joy, however, is not normal. It’s depression. For the elderly, depression is a common problem, with only a small percentage getting the help they need. There are many reasons depression in older adults is so often overlooked: Some assume seniors have good reason to be down or that depression is just part of aging. Elderly adults are often isolated, with few around to notice their distress. Physicians are more likely to ignore depression in older patients, concentrating instead on physical complaints. Finally, many depressed seniors are reluctant to talk about their feelings or ask for help. That lack of understanding is just one of several reasons why older adults may not seek and receive the treatment they need, with sometimes tragic results: the growing problem of geriatric suicide.

What triggers Senior Depression? Coaches often find seniors living alone; their opportunities for going out and friends to go out with are getting smaller due to deaths or relocation. It has gotten increasingly difficult to go out due to illness or loss of driving privileges. Of major importance is a loss of feeling of useful. They believe they have nothing to contribute or having retired, feel a loss of identity that was connected too their career. Illness and disability will often be a source of depression. Experiencing chronic or severe pain; cognitive decline; damage to body image due to surgery or disease can take a toll on the psyche. Many prescription medications can trigger or exacerbate depression. Seniors are often over medicated. Fear is very prevalent as an underlying factor. Many have an unnatural fear of death or dying; fear of falling, or financial problems. Depression can also be brought on during the grief process. The loss of friends, family members, and pets, is a reminder that their time will come. The loss of a long term spouse or partner, is often times a precursor to their own death.

Seniors don’t always fit the typical picture of depression. Many depressed seniors don’t claim to feel sad at all. They may complain, instead, of low motivation, a lack of energy, or physical problems. In fact, physical complaints, such as arthritis pain or headaches that have gotten worse, are often the predominant symptom of depression in the elderly.

Older adults with depression are also more likely to show symptoms of anxiety or irritability. They may constantly wring their hands, pace around the room, or fret obsessively about money, their health, or the state of the world.

Recovery Coaches look for these clues in senior depression. Older adults who deny feeling sad or depressed may still have major depression. Here are the clues to look for: Oddly, a senior will exhibit anxiety and worry, rather than typical depression. One must take the time to really observe the senior to see where the anxiety stems from, and if it could be depression. Unexplained or aggravated aches and pains Unexplained or aggravated aches and pains, Hopelessness, Helplessness, Memory problems Loss of feeling of pleasure, Slowed movement, Irritability, Lack of interest in personal care (skipping meals, forgetting medications, neglecting personal hygiene)

Older Adults Less Likely to Seek Treatment for Depression. Family can hinder the process of detecting depression and getting treatment for those experiencing symptoms. Often times they still consider them the adult and themselves as the children. They do not know how to help mom or dads, who have always been so strong and independent. Or as many people, including Medical Professionals, have the misconception that senior depression is simply part of growing old.

The stigma of seeking mental health treatment is a bigger factor among seniors, many of whom grew up at a time when having a mental health problem was often considered synonymous with being “crazy” or incompetent. Recovery Coaching is a gentle bridge that helps the individual much as your best friend would convince you to seek treatment.

Increase Suicide Risk among Older Adults. Adults age 65 and over comprise only 13 percent of the US population, they account for 20 percent of all suicide deaths. Suicidal elders often select a means of suicide (efficient and lethal) that does not permit intervention. That means we need to know how to recognize the behavior in time to intervene. Well over 75% of older people who completed suicide had recent contact with a physician.

When a senior has severe depression, they need appropriate treatment. As with most depressed individuals, they cannot see a way out. If you know someone who is dealing with depression, get professional help.