Treatment of depression in older people is generally the same as younger people. Most older patients respond well to the same pharmacological treatments, such as antidepressants, social support, counseling groups, and therapy. In addition, one therapy that is effective for older people with severe depression is electroconvulsive or electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). People with more severe depression, or those who do not respond to this treatment, may need to be referred to a psychiatrist who specializes in treating older people.
Now you know that depression in older people can be cured. But, you may wonder why so many older adults who suffer from depression are not treated. This is because depression in the elderly can be challenging to detect. This is because a person’s aging process is accompanied by physical illness. Therefore, it can be difficult to tell if symptoms such as difficulty sleeping, fatigue, loss of appetite, and weight loss are part of the aging process or depression. As a result, there is confusion, and possible depressive illnesses are overlooked.
Depression in the elderly
Another reason is financial barriers, as elderly patients on a fixed income may not afford medication, therapy, and antidepressants. The following symptoms may indicate a depressive illness.
- Lack of interest in activities and hobbies that are normally enjoyed.
- Loss of interest in friends and social activities.
- Significant pessimism about the future.
- Intense and pervasive feelings of guilt.
- Suicidal thoughts or preoccupation with death.
- Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness.
- Persistent feelings of sadness that are not dissipated by happy experiences.
- Slow verbal and physical movements.
- I am not taking care of household chores.
- I am seeing or hearing things that are not there.
- Stopping or not taking medications correctly.
- I am becoming more confused or forgetful.
Seniors and their caregivers need to understand that symptoms of depression are not a normal part of aging. Combining depression and aging can make diagnosis and treatment more difficult, but depression in the elderly is just as treatable as depression in other age groups.
There are several changes in the lives of older people that significantly increase the risk of developing depression or worsen existing depression. Some of these changes are
- Being single, unmarried, divorced, or widowed
- Having multiple medical conditions
- Struggling with memory loss and clarity of thought
- Living alone and without a supportive social network
- Stressful life events
- Adjusting to a move to an apartment or retirement facility
This can be a psychological response to a medical condition or directly caused by a physical illness.
- Parkinson’s disease
- Heart disease
- Thyroid disorders
- Vitamin B12 deficiency
- Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Chronic pain
- Side effects of many medications commonly used in the elderly.
- Certain drugs or combinations of drugs
- Body image damage (from amputation, cancer surgery, or heart attack)
- A family history of major depression
- Fear of death
- Past suicide attempts
- Previous history of depression
- Substance abuse
The above information makes prevention possible, and affected seniors can be immediately diagnosed and treated. If an older person you care for is suffering from depression, you can make a difference by providing emotional support. Listen to your loved one with patience and compassion.
Encourage your older family member to remain physically, mentally, and socially active to help reduce the risk of depression. For example, taking care of a dog is a really good choice of hobby, and having company on walks is a great way to get exercise and meet people. Eating healthy foods and taking a multivitamin and anti-aging supplement at the same time can also be beneficial. In addition, make sure they are getting enough sleep, between seven and nine hours a night. Finally, help your loved ones find a good doctor to accompany them to doctor’s appointments and give them moral support.