Depression in Elderly

Depression is not just feeling sad, uneasy or stressed about something. It is a serious disorder that needs immediate treatment. As one ages, they are more prone to getting impacted with depression. Thus, depression is said to be a common disorder among older adults but it is NOT normal.

However, causes of depression in the elderly can’t be listed with full accuracy. Sometimes, it occurs due to medical illnesses or other disabilities. Prolonged loneliness can also be a factor causing depression in the elderly. Some more causes of depression in the elderly can be the death of a spouse or any loved one, relocation, or retirement.

Similarly, symptoms of depression in older adults are also different for every individual. Some might start feeling differently, think differently or start performing daily activities differently. Others may experience trouble in sleeping, inaccurate eating or working habits, etc. Some might start being grumpy or irritated for no reason at all. For instance, the COVID-19 pandemic also made some elderly feel depressed due to physical distancing and travel restrictions which made them isolated or lonely.

Depression in older adults is associated with an increased risk of cardiac diseases and an increased risk of death from illness. Studies have also shown that the presence of depression substantially increases the likelihood of death from any existing physical illness. Therefore, it is important to make sure that the elderly person is evaluated, monitored and treated on regular basis, even if the depression is mild. Using a series of physical examinations, interviews, or lab tests, a primary care doctor or a healthcare provider can effectively screen the patient for depression and can be helpful in better diagnosis and treatment.

There are several available treatment options for depression. These can be medicine, counseling, electroconvulsive therapy, or any other newer forms of brain stimulation. Sometimes, treatment may also involve a combination of these, if needed. The option a doctor might recommend depends on a variety of factors such as the type of depression, the severity of symptoms, past treatments, and other medical conditions an individual may have, and so on.

In order to lower the risk of depression, there are a few measures one can take.

  • Try and get prepared for major changes that may take place in your life, such as retirement or relocation.
  • Staying in touch with family and loved ones and letting them know how you feel, especially when sad, helps a lot.
  • Regular exercise also helps in preventing depression or lifting-up the mood when depressed.
  • Get involved in something you like to do or restart doing activities that you used to do at one point of time. These can be gardening, singing, painting, etc.
  • Being physically fit and eating a balanced diet also helps in avoiding illnesses that can lead to disability or depression.

Depression develops for many reasons in people who are in their old age. Though it takes some time to diagnose it and further to strategize the best treatment for the individual, the reward is often a better quality of life — in the form of being able to spend quality time with loved ones, taking up a new hobby, or restarting the old ones, or going on road trips. Pleasure and happiness shouldn’t have any age limit.

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