Depression, which is one of the most widespread conditions linked with suicide in older adults, is a commonly under-recognized and under-treated medical condition. In fact, some studies have found that many cases of depression in the elderly, which resulted to suicide, had about seventy-five percent of them visiting their primary care physician within a month of their suicide. Of course, not all depression in the elderly results in tragedies however it is important to keep on eye out for the signs. More on that a bit further down.
Causes & Symptoms of Depression in the Elderly
Later in life, depression often coexists with other medical illnesses and disabilities. Additionally, advancing age is frequently accompanied by loss of key social support systems because of the death of a spouse or siblings, relocation of residence and/or retirement. Because of their change in situations and the fact that they’re anticipated to slow down, family and doctors may miss the analysis of depression in the elderly, which then results in the delay of effective treatment, and many elderly people finding themselves having to handle the symptoms themselves which could have been treated easily.
Nursing home patients’ studies have shown that the occurrence of depression significantly increased the chances of death. It has also been linked to increased risk of death following a heart attack. For this reason, it is important to make sure that elderly people with depression even if mild, should be evaluated and treated. This condition can trigger long-term illnesses that are common in later life such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, chronic lung cancer, cancer, arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. (Note: Depression in the elderly has about fifty percent higher healthcare costs than non-depressed seniors.)
Some of the symptoms you should look out for include: lack of energy or motivation, loss of interest in things they used to love to do, sudden or unexpected weight loss, seems like they are feeling hopeless about more and more situations and sadness.
Higher Risk Factors To Consider
Below is a list of some of the factors that tend to increase the risk of depression in the elderly:
- existing fear of death;
- recent bereavement;
- living alone or social isolation;
- certain medicines or combination of medicines;
- previous history of depression;
- past suicide attempt(s);
- family history of major depressive disorder;
- damage to body image such as amputation, cancer surgery, or heart attack;
- presence of chronic or severe pain;
- substance abuse;
- and other illnesses.
Treatment for Depression in the Elderly
There are some treatment options obtainable for depression. In a lot of cases, a combination of treatments such as antidepressant medicines, psychotherapy, and electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), is most successful. Unfortunately, there are other problems that affect treatment of depression in the elderly. For instance, the shame attached to mental illness and psychiatric treatment is even more overwhelming among elderly and is frequently shared by members of the patient’s family, neighbors, and friends and this stigma can keep elderly people from seeking treatment. Elderly people may also not be willing to take their medicines due to side effects or cost. Additionally, certain other illnesses at the same time as depression can hinder the effectiveness of antidepressant medicines.
The National Institute of Mental Health considers depression in the elderly as a major public health concern. Please keep an eye out for anyone in your family or social circle who may be experiencing this condition and assist them in getting the help they need, before it gets worse.
Disclaimer – Please keep in mind that we are not trained professionals here at Tools For Depression And Anxiety. The information on depression in the elderly mentioned above was posted for informational purposes only. Please consult your doctor for any mental health issues.