How to Tell If Your Senior is Depressed

Clinical depression in seniors is common. It affects about 6 million people age 65 and older in the United States alone. Out of those 6 million people, only about 10% of them will receive treatment for depression. The most likely reason for this is that older people often display symptoms of depression differently. Depression will often occur with other medical illnesses or disabilities and last longer.

Families and doctors may miss the signs of depression because as a person gets older they are expected to slow down. There are signs that one can watch for. They are:

  • Extreme feelings of sadness, unhappiness or despair
  • Unexplained pains and aches
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or socializing
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Feeling of hopelessness
  • Feelings of helplessness
  • Lack of motivation
  • Lack of energy
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Loss of self-worth
  • Slowed movement
  • Slowed speech
  • Increase use of alcohol
  • Increase use of drugs
  • Fixation on death
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Memory problems
  • Slowed movement
  • Neglecting personal care

There are treatments available for older adults who are suffering from depression. They include medication, psychotherapy, or counseling,  and sometimes treatment consists of a combination of any of these therapies. If the older adult lives alone and does not have anyone that can check on them during the day or on a regular basis. The doctor may suggest that they have an agency, such as The Nurses Guild Home Health Agency, send someone out to the home to make sure that they are getting along fine and their necessary daily needs are being met. This can help the older person feel more secure just knowing someone is going to come see them.

There are also medical problems that can cause depression in older adults. Any chronic medical condition, especially if it causes pain, can make depression symptoms worse. These include:

  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Stroke
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Heart disease
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency
  • Cancer
  • Lupus
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Diabetes
  • Dementia
  • Alzheimer’s disease

Symptoms of depression can also occur with some prescribed drugs. The person is more at risk if they are taking multiple medications. Older adults are more sensitive to the mood-related side effects of a prescription medication than younger adults. Medications that can cause or worsen depression are:

  • Blood pressure medication
  • Ulcer medication
  • Beta-blockers
  • Steroids
  • Sleeping pills
  • Heart medication that contains reserpine
  • Tranquilizers
  • High-cholesterol drugs
  • Calcium-channel blockers
  • Pain killers
  • Arthritis drugs
  • Medication for Parkinson’s disease
  • Estrogen

If a person is feeling depressed after starting a new medication, they need to talk to their doctor as soon as possible. He or she may want to reduce the dose of the medication or even change them to another medication to help with depression symptoms.