7 SIGNS OF DEPRESSION IN THE ELDERLY
Aging is a beautiful process programmed into nature. It is a time for rest, relaxation, and catching up with desires that could not be attended to during the younger years. However, aging does not always progress perfectly. Seniors might often find themselves in the circumstances – loss of loved ones, loneliness, dealing with chronic illnesses – that precipitate depression.
Depression is a serious medical illness characterized by a lowering of the mood. About 6 million people aged 65 years and above are living with depression. That statistic captures how common this condition is in the elderly. Unfortunately, the condition might be missed in the elderly, commonly due to the false assumption that some of the symptoms of depression are a normal part of the aging process.
It is important to know the signs and symptoms that are pointers to depression in the elderly. They include:
1. DIFFICULTY FALLING ASLEEP
If you notice a persistent difficulty falling asleep over a couple of weeks, closer attention has to what could be responsible for this. After eliminating causes like the side effect of medication and overconsumption of caffeine, depression should be strongly considered.
2. UNEXPLAINED TIREDNESS
Experiencing tiredness after a day of intense activity is not unusual. However, if you continually feel tired or feel your energy levels are unexplainably low, it might be time to assess your overall mood to rule out depression.
Depression might manifest as irritability at times. A senior going through with this mood disorder might increasingly express emotions of impatience and hostility at the slightest occurrences.
4. DIFFICULTY PAYING ATTENTION
Mood and concentration levels are closely linked; it takes a healthy mind to maintain concentration. Difficulty focusing on tasks and a constantly wandering mind can be subtle signs that depression is setting in.
5. CHANGE IN APPETITE
Appetite change is a common feature that has been associated with depression. It might occur as a decrease in appetite – slight to no interest in food. Other times, a surprisingly voracious appetite may replace usual eating habits.
6. PERSISTENT FEELINGS OF HOPELESSNESS, WORTHLESSNESS, AND GUILT
Have your recent thoughts been self-condemnatory? Do you notice you seem to have an increasingly negative attitude towards the world, the future, or yourself? Have others told you that you seem more pessimistic than your usual self? Affirmatory answers to these are consistent with the low mood seen in depression.
7. SUICIDAL THOUGHTS OR ACTIONS
This is a very serious sign which should be urgently attended to. Having thoughts about ending one’s life or outrightly attempting to do so are dangerous signs of a depressed mood.
The 7 signs listed above are by no means conclusive when a diagnosis of depression is concerned, especially when they occur in isolation. The length of time over which these signs are noticed is also very significant.
Ultimately, a presentation at the doctor’s office, preferably a clinical psychologist, is the best way to make the diagnosis of depression. However, here are some recommendations to aid your recovery and protect your mental health from being weighed down by a depressed mood:
- Stay in contact with your loved ones and enjoy the warmth of these relationships.
- Go outdoors and exercise regularly; a brisk walk or cycling in your neighborhood will do your mood a lot of good.
- Eat healthy meals. Foods that contain proteins, vitamins, selenium, and omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to improve and prevent symptoms of depression.
- Ask for help. Do not be afraid of being vulnerable, especially with the right people.