Regardless of age, race or gender, more than 19 million Americans suffer from depression. According to Mental Health America, clinical depression is present in older adults as well. Two million individuals age 65 and older are recorded to have some form of depression.
However, clinical depression is a treatable condition. Over 80% of Americans receive successful treatment for depression through psychotherapy, medication, or a combination of both.
Recognizing Signs of Depression in Your Loved One
Aging brings changes to older adults’ lifestyles. With stressful life events such as the death of a spouse, worrying about having enough money for retirement, and dealing with chronic health conditions, it’s understandable that some seniors may feel down from time to time.
However, depression is not a normal part of the aging process. Depression interferes with daily life and may have an impact on seniors’ energy levels, sleeping habits, appetites and more. Many older adults may not even realize what they’re feeling is more serious than just sadness or negativity. It can be tough to break out of the rut depression brings, but with the right support and treatment, your loved one can get back to enjoying a happy, fulfilling life.
Because of the negative health effects associated with depression, it’s important to be able to identify the signs of clinical depression. These signs include:
- Loss of interest in activities previously enjoyed
- Social isolation or no desire to spend time with friends or family
- Sudden weight loss or loss of appetite
- Changes in sleep habits: trouble falling or staying asleep or sleeping more than normal
- Neglecting to take care of themselves, forgetting to take meds or change their clothes
- Lack of energy and motivation
- Having difficulty concentrating or staying focused
- Slower movements or speech
- Behaving out of character, being moody or irritable
- Loss of self-esteem
It’s important to recognize that depression is also a side effect of some common medical conditions in seniors like stroke, diabetes, dementia, heart disease, multiple sclerosis and some cancers.
Treating Depression in the Elderly
Older adults tend to be reluctant in seeking treatment for depression, thinking maybe what they’re feeling is related to the fact that they’re simply getting older. Many seniors may feel there’s a certain stigma attached to the word “depression” and keep their condition to themselves.
If you’re recognizing any of the signs of depression in your loved ones, talk to them about their feelings. Listen to what changes they are facing in their lives and offer comfort and support. Be there for them first and foremost. During which, it’s vital to encourage them to seek the treatment they need to enhance their quality of life. Many seniors see improvement to their mental health in as little as two weeks after receiving the right treatment, whether that involves taking anti-depressants, talking to a therapist, or both.