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Depression in the Elderly

There’s a lot to appreciate about the golden years. For starters: The chance to retire, to focus on what’s important, to draw on a lifetime of knowledge. Still, aging can present some challenges: Moving out of the family home, managing illness and dealing with grief when peers pass away.

Understandably, such changes can cause stress or sadness. But depression is something more. It’s not an inevitable part of the aging process, but a medical condition, one that can occur at any age. Fortunately, it can be treated.

Are you worried your aging parent might have depression? Here’s what to look for – and what to do about it.

 

Depression in Older Adults: Signs, Symptoms & Facts

Sadness comes and goes. Depression is defined by symptoms that last two weeks or more. The symptoms vary from person to person, but can include:

  • Persistent sadness

  • Sense of hopelessness or emptiness

  • Irritability

  • Appetite changes

  • Memory, concentration and/or attention problems

  • Fatigued or frequent tiredness

  • Trouble sleeping or getting out of bed

  • Loss of interest in enjoyable activities

 

Unfortunately, many of these symptoms overlap with those of other medical conditions. That can sometimes make it hard to spot depression in older adults. What’s more, depression often occurs hand-in-hand with other diseases, including cancer, heart disease and Parkinson’s disease.

For those reasons, it’s important to encourage your parent to see a doctor for an accurate diagnosis.

 

Treating Depression in Elderly Patients

The good news is that depression is treatable, with medications, talk therapy or a combination of the two. The bad news? Many older adults grew up with myths and dismissive attitudes about depression and mental health.

That means it might take some gentle encouragement and patience on your part to help your parent accept that it’s OK to seek out treatment. Talk with them about how depression is a genuine medical condition. Someone who is clinically depressed can’t just toughen up or snap out of it.

Once your parent is on board, a primary care doctor can help with an initial depression screening and recommendations for next steps.

 

Getting Help at Senior Living

If you’re concerned about your parent’s mental health, ask the staff at his or her senior living community if they’ve noticed anything amiss. At Heritage Communities, our goal is to help residents Live Better. Contact us to learn more.