Depression among older Americans is a very serious and important topic. Not only are the occurrence rates much higher among this demographic, depression among the elderly may present itself very differently and pose a different set of complications.
It is very important to pay close attention to any changes in your older loved one’s health. Even seemingly minute changes could indicate possible depression and because many seniors do not report feeling “sad”, a lot of depression within their community is misdiagnosed or ignored.
Here are some common symptoms of depression in the elderly:
Lack of motivation
Seniors may report feeling like it is harder and harder to get things done. You may notice that tasks aren’t taken care of around the house such as up-to-date lawn care and general messiness. You may also notice a dip in their personal hygiene. These issues can have multiple reasons so pay close attention and ask them about these changes.
Lack of sleep can be a symptom of many things. However, it is a major part of depression for some and should never be ignored. If you are noticing an increased level of lethargy or they mention a change in their sleep pattern, take note. Instead of suggesting a sleeping aid, first ask them questions about whether this has been an ongoing problem.
Increase in Alcohol or Drug Use
This one may seem obvious on paper, but it can be more difficult to spot in person. With the holidays coming up in the next few months, the wine will be flowing and it can be hard to track whether there is a problem or not. Additionally, for those who already struggle with alcohol or substance abuse – it can be especially difficult to catch. Alcohol is a depressant and serves as a quick fix to depression, but will ultimately lower someone’s ability to fight depression. Pay close attention to how much they are drinking, as well as their medications to ensure that they are taking them in their appropriate doses.
Fixation on Death/Thoughts of Suicide
It is common for seniors to start looking at or talking about death a little differently. However, it can also be a sign of depression and/or suicidal thoughts. Suicide rates are among the highest within the senior community. If talks about death increase or if they mention ending their life – get help immediately. Visit Suicide.org to view their page on senior suicide prevention at http://www.suicide.org/elderly-suicide.html. If you have any concerns or need some questions answered. A number of useful hotlines are listed on the right-hand side. You or your loved one are free to use them at any time.