Depression in the Elderly 

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By Susan Heckler

Depression can affect anyone at any age.  It is not an inevitable part of aging; however, the changes that come in later life can lead to depression. Life events such as retirement, the death of loved ones, increased isolation, or medical problems are more prevalent in senior years. It may impact your energy, sleep, appetite, and physical health and prevent you from enjoying life.

It is important to look for signs of depression in our aging loved ones so they can get the help they need to overcome those symptoms. If you see signs of sadness, fatigue, losing interest in hobbies, social withdrawal or isolation, loss of appetite or weight, sleep issues, neglecting personal care, change in mental sharpness, fixating on death or feelings of being a burden, you may have cause to be concerned.

Depression is fairly consistent.  Medical conditions and even medications themselves can cause some symptoms.  The mood-related side effects of prescription medicine can affect anyone, but older adults are more sensitive because their bodies become less efficient at metabolizing and processing drugs.

Just as with younger people, exercise is a wonderful tool to battle depression. Look for small ways to add more movement to their day that is appropriate for their physical condition. Engage with them as much as possible, whether it is visiting more regularly or on the phone. It is important that the do not feel alone or abandoned.  Encourage social activities; whether it is a book club, card game or bereavement group…it is still interaction and connection with others. For many, volunteering their times gives a new self-worth.  The love and care of a pet can be a mood boost. Sometimes a change in diet or the addition of nutritional supplements can make a difference.

You can make a difference by offering emotional and moral support, listen to them, and have patience and compassion. See that they get an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Letting them feel loved can’t hurt in any circumstance.