Clinical depression in the elderly is common. … But only 10% receive treatment for depression. The likely reason is that the elderly often display symptoms of depression differently. Depression in the elderly is also frequently confused with the effects of multiple illnesses and the medicines used to treat them.
Geriatric depression is a mental and emotional disorder affecting older adults. Feelings of sadness and occasional “blue” moods are normal.
What are the signs of depression in the elderly?
Depression red flags include:
- Recognizing depression in the elderly starts with knowing the signs and symptoms. Depression red flags include:
- Sadness or feelings of despair
- Unexplained or aggravated aches and pains
- Loss of interest in socializing or hobbies
- Weight loss or loss of appetite
- Feelings of hopelessness or helplessness
- Lack of motivation and energy
- Sleep disturbances (difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, oversleeping, or daytime sleepiness)
- Loss of self-worth (worries about being a burden, feelings of worthlessness or self-loathing
- Slowed movement or speech
- Increased use of alcohol or other drugs
- Fixation on death; thoughts of suicide
- Memory problems, slowed movement and speech
- Neglecting personal care (skipping meals, forgetting meds, neglecting personal hygiene)
Can aging cause depression?
There is evidence that some natural body changes associated with aging may increase a person’s risk of experiencing depression. … Regardless of its cause, depression can have alarming physical effects on older people.
What causes depression in elderly?
Physical conditions like stroke, hypertension, atrial fibrillation, diabetes, cancer, dementia, and chronic pain further increase the risk of depression. Additionally, the following risk factors for depression are often seen in the elderly: Loneliness, Isolation, bereavement, other people’s dependency for daily living help.
Medical conditions that can cause elderly depression
It’s important to be aware that medical problems can cause depression in older adults and the elderly, either directly or as a psychological reaction to the illness. Any chronic medical condition, particularly if it is painful, disabling, or life-threatening, can lead to depression or make your depression symptoms worse.
- Parkinson’s disease
- Heart disease
- Thyroid disorders
- Vitamin B12 deficiency
- Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis (MS)
Is it grief or depression?
As we age, we experience many losses. Loss is painful—whether it’s a loss of independence, mobility, health, your long-time career, or someone you love. Grieving over these losses is normal and healthy, even if the feelings of sadness last for a long time.
Distinguishing between grief and clinical depression isn’t always easy, since they share many symptoms. However, there are ways to tell the difference.
- Grief is a roller coaster involving a wide variety of emotions and a mix of good and bad days. Even when you’ll still have moments of pleasure or happiness.
- With depression, on the other hand, the feelings of emptiness and despair are constant.
- While there’s no set timetable for grieving, if it doesn’t let up over time or extinguishes all signs of joy—laughing at a good joke, brightening in response to a hug, appreciating a beautiful sunset—it may be depression.
Side Effects From Medications
Symptoms of depression can also occur as a side effect of many commonly prescribed drugs. You’re particularly at risk if you’re taking multiple medications. While the mood-related side effects of prescription medication can affect anyone, older adults are more sensitive because, as we age, our bodies become less efficient at metabolizing and processing drugs.
Medications that can cause or worsen depression include:
- Blood pressure medication (e.g. clonidine)
- Beta-blockers (e.g. Lopressor, Inderal)
- High-cholesterol drugs (e.g. Lipitor, Mevacor, Zocor)
- Tranquilizers (e.g. Valium, Xanax, Halcion)
- Calcium-channel blockers
- Medication for Parkinson’s disease
- Sleeping pills
- Ulcer medication (e.g. Zantac, Tagamet)
- Heart drugs containing reserpine
- Steroids (e.g. cortisone and prednisone)
- Painkillers and arthritis drugs
- Estrogens (e.g. Premarin, Prempro)
By understanding the causes, signs and symptoms of depression, care and healthcare professionals can ensure their provision fully supports the clients needs.
Prepare2Care can provide courses that give your staff the skills and understanding they need to provide outstanding care.
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