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Depression is a common problem in older adults. According to Health line an estimated 7 million American adults over the age of 65 experiences depression each year. It’s often overlooked and underdiagnosed when combined with other medical conditions or the loss of loved ones. According to Mental Health America, “there is (also a)strong likelihood of (depression) occurring when other physical health conditions are present. For example, nearly a quarter of the 600,000 people who experience a stroke in a given year will experience clinical depression.”
The good news is that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) “the majority of older adults are not depressed. Some estimates of major depression in older people […] range from less than 1% to about 5% but rise to 13.5% in those who require home healthcare and to 11.5% in older hospital patients.”
Depression’s low prevalence doesn’t mean that it should be taken lightly. By definition, major depression is a prolonged state of sadness which is different from grieving. This emotional state can last for a much longer time than a normal sad response to a health diagnosis, or loss of a loved one.
Depression can lead to lower quality of life and other health problems. It can be tricky and difficult to verify in older adults, as many other aging issues can be perceived as depression symptoms. Fortunately, once diagnosed, there are ways to help reduce workplace stressors or get older adults professional assistance to improve their mood.
Common symptoms of depression:
- Low energy level and feelings of fatigue
- Hopelessness and feeling pessimistic
- Abnormal changes in diet including both overeating or appetite loss
- Abnormal changes in sleeping patterns. These include insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
- Feeling sad, anxious, or empty
- Having no interest in activities or hobbies which at a point in life were pleasurable
How can I help?
If an older adult you care for has any of the above symptoms, it’s very likely that they’re suffering from depression. As someone who cares for them, you’ll want to fix the problem as soon as possible. However, the best assistance you may be able to provide is to be a faithful friend to them and seek professional help.
At times some people prefer talking about their feelings, but in many cases, discussing their feelings will only make things worse and might adversely affect your efforts to get those help and support. If you’re close enough to the person you’re trying to help, you may openly ask them to fully express themselves if anything from the present or past is bothering them. However, don’t be overly persistent or aggressive, let them talk and share their thoughts whenever they’re ready.
What can I do?
It depends on the severity; attempting to get an able-bodied homebound senior outdoors and interacting with other people may help. If the doctors allow, doing simple and low impact exercises like water aerobics or walking may help if an older adult is willing to do them. Exercise boosts endorphins which can help improve mood. You can also help the sufferer by helping them in getting a good brand of a mattress as sleeping on a well-liked bed is guaranteed to help them. The more their sleeping patterns are normal the lesser the chances of them cultivating intense depression bouts.
If the elder is suffering from a more serious bout of major depression, they may not be interested in any activities since they don’t find them enjoyable anymore. In this case, you must look for professional help. Be sure to rule out other common medical conditions whose symptoms may mimic depression. Consult your family physician or other health care professional and schedule a full checkup. Seeking professional help is always the best option. Recommendations will be made based on the doctor’s knowledge, skills, and experience – combined with the patient’s private health information.
Don’t jump to conclusions and assume an older adult has depression. Some of disease symptoms and depression are similar. Don’t allow any self-medication or use prescription medications that have not been provided by a registered doctor. Any kind of medication without any professional prescription can have serious adverse consequences or drug interactions for the elderly adult. It can also have legal repercussions for the person who provided them the medication.
It is not easy to watch someone you love go through depression. If you really love and care for the sufferer, watch for the signs and symptoms to spot it early. Seek professional help and implement a care plan before it gets worse. This is not something chronic or deadly but if isn’t cured timely, can lead to so many other issues for older adults who have comparatively weaker immune system.