Depression in the Aging Population

Depression affects millions of people and may look vastly different in the elder population. Many of our elders live with undiagnosed depression, to the point that they adapt it as normalcy for their lives, but it is not normal.

Did you know?
• Over 20% of adults 65 and older met criteria for a mental disorder during the previous 12 months
• 1 in 8 persons over 65 has Alzheimer’s Disease
• 15-20% of older adults have experienced depression

Depression is defined as: “feelings of severe despondency and dejection,” and impacts individuals of all ages. These feelings are sometimes misinterpreted or confused with other symptoms, but it is important recognize signs that may be a warning to more serious issues.

So what are the warning signs?
Red Flags for Elders Dealing with Depression:

Cognitive Symptoms:
– Memory loss
– Disorientation
– Distractibility
– Often confused with “old age” or dementia
– Depression likely to have insight into memory issues than dementia
Somatic Symptoms
– Dizziness
– Chronic aches and pains
– GI complaints
– Appetite or weight changes
– Insomnia
– Fatigue
– Headache
– Easily confused with medical conditions
Affective Symptoms:
– Sadness
– Anxiety
– Guilt
– Dysphoria
– Loss of motivation
– Older adults less likely to accept affective symptoms than younger
– Functional Changes:
– Changes in hygiene
– Grooming
– Reading
– Decline in instrumental activities of daily living
– (telephone use, paying bills, cleaning)
– Hobbies
– Socializing

Each of these areas provides signs that show a change in behavior that if ignored, could possibly cause someone their life. Exhibiting one of these signs may not necessarily be cause for alarm, but when multiple signs exist it is time to take action.

How do you help?

Intervention that helps

Positive Mental Health Factors with Older Adults
• Improvement in emotional regulation
• Wisdom
• Resiliency – Positive self-concept, mastery and self efficacy
• Crystallized intelligence/Procedural Memory
• Problem Solving Skills

• Older adults are more spiritually focused
• 75% of elderly say religion is important to them than 46% of 18-29 year olds
• Religious involvement may reduce risk of depression
• Some religious practices may fuel cognitive distortions and negative core beliefs

Treatment for Depression in Older adults
• Antidepressants
• Psychotherapy – including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), and Interpersonal Therapy (IPT)
• Mindfulness
• Electroconvulsant Therapy (ECT)

If know of someone who exhibits any of the above warning signs, do not ignore or dismiss what you see. It is important to pay attention to the signs and seek help for those in need.
For more information about dealing with elder adults follow us on Facebook at Leslie Sessley, LCSW.

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