Health & Fitness

Recognizing the Signs of Depression in Seniors


If you’re providing care to an aging loved one, you should watch out for signs that indicate they may be suffering from depression. According to clinical psychologists in Montreal, seniors are prone to depression, but it is highly treatable.

How Common is Depression in Older Adults?

Clinical depression in older seniors is quite common. In fact, it affects an estimated 6 million Americans who are at least 65 years old. Sadly, only 10% of them receive treatment.

Its symptoms affect every aspect of the senior’s life, including their relationships, interest in their hobbies and/or work, appetite, energy and sleep. The problem is that seniors often fail to recognize the symptoms or refuse to seek treatment.

If you have an elderly family member, these are some symptoms to watch for:

  • Unexplained aches and pains
  • Weight loss
  • Lack of appetite
  • Feelings of despair or sadness
  • Lack of energy
  • Lack of motivation or drive
  • Sleep disturbances such as difficulty sleeping or oversleeping
  • Slowed speech and movement
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Increased use of alcohol or other substances
  • Memory problems
  • Neglecting personal hygiene
  • Skipping meals
  • Not taking medications
  • Suicidal thoughts

A very important thing to keep in mind is that depressed seniors may not necessarily be “sad.” People often associate sadness with depression but this is not always the case with older adults. In fact, physical issues like worsening headaches and arthritis are considered the chief symptoms of depression in seniors.

Why are Seniors Prone to Depression?

There are many reasons why depression is common in older individuals. However, experts have pointed to medical conditions to be a contributing factor. If a senior has a chronic medical condition, especially if it is life threatening or painful, it can often leads to depression.

Such medical conditions include heart disease, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, lupus, dementia, thyroid disorders, diabetes, stroke, multiple sclerosis and nutrient deficiencies (vitamin B12).

Certain drugs can also trigger depression symptoms. They may occur as a side effect of the treatment, which is particularly problematic for seniors since their bodies are less efficient at processing and metabolizing drugs.

Some of the most common medications that trigger or worsen depression include: beta blockers, blood pressure medications, tranquilizers and sleeping pills, steroids, calcium channel blockers, medication for Parkinson’s disease, painkillers, high cholesterol drugs, heart drugs and ulcer treatments.

If your loved one seems to show signs of depression and they are taking any of the aforementioned treatments, you may want to talk to their doctor to see if there are alternative medications that can be prescribed.

Living with depression is never easy and it becomes especially difficult for older adults. We want our loved ones to enjoy their twilight years, surrounded by family and friends. If you think your older loved one may be suffering from depression, take them to a doctor as soon as possible so that a proper diagnosis and treatment may be given.

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