How is Depression different as you age?

As an older adult, you must be aware of the signs and symptoms of depression. This way, you can get the help you need if you are experiencing this condition. Additionally, you will be able to learn more about it and, if necessary, be referred to a specialist. You should also contact your doctor if you experience signs of depression that are not well-managed by therapy.

What are the early signs of depression that people miss?

Depression is characterised by sadness and loss of interest in everyday activities and can result in suicidal thoughts and behaviour. Depression is most common in older adults, yet many older adults do not receive appropriate mental health treatment for depression. This is because many people do not experience the early signs of depression until much later in life.

So, what are the early signs of depression?

  • Feeling sad or blue for no apparent reason.
  • Loss of interest in activities that used to be enjoyable
  • Feeling hopeless, helpless, or worthless
  • Feeling irritable or easily annoyed
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Eating too much or too little
  • Feeling tired all the time
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Experiencing unexplained aches and pains

How would you know if an elderly relative had clinical depression?

It can be challenging to tell if someone is experiencing a bad day or experiencing symptoms of depression. In older adults, depression can take on different forms than in younger adults, and it is essential to recognise the signs of depression. Depression can be present without the person showing any outward signs of distress. Individuals with major depressive disorder are likely to have several symptoms.

Fatigue and loss of interest

Depression in older adults can make you lose interest in activities you usually enjoy, feel less motivated, and have less energy.

If your loved one has stopped doing their usual activities, hobbies etc. Then this is a strong sign that something is wrong. If you have concerns about your loved one’s mental health, seek professional help.

If you live far from your older relatives, you can ask about things over the telephone. You can inquire about their usual activities, like, “How was church this week?” Asking about their weekly activities will help you understand their life more, so you can tell when things are changing.

Weight loss or not eating as much

Many people eat less as they get older. For some, the reason is obvious: They’re trying to lose weight. But for others, their weight loss may be due to depression. Depression is more common as people age and can affect people of all ages differently. Planning and preparing regular healthy meals will help.

Changes in sleep patterns

As we get older, our sleep patterns change. Our internal clocks, which help determine when we naturally wake up and go to sleep, become more difficult to reset. This can lead to an inability to keep to a regular sleep schedule. Research shows that people with depression are far more likely to have sleep trouble than others.

Anxiety and worries

The worries and anxieties that your older loved one may have could cause their depression, or the depression may have made them focus on those worries more. If you notice that the person is more anxious or worried than usual, this could be one of the symptoms of depression.

Encouraging communication about worries can help identify areas where you can assist.

Social withdrawal

As depression sets in, you may find yourself withdrawing from social activities. Although it may seem counterintuitive, socialising can be helpful as a distraction from negative thoughts. Talking to others about shared experiences can also make you feel less alone.

If your loved one has withdrawn from socialising, they must take small steps to get back into it. You could take them to the cinema, or a day trip out.

Consider getting your loved one an activity tracker or fitness band that you can use together. It’s important to remember that your loved one’s motivation to exercise is different from yours. Some people will be more motivated to start an activity than others, so working together is important.

Neglecting personal appearance and hygiene

As we age, we often lose sight of what makes us feel good about ourselves. This is a serious problem for many as they may not realise how their poor self-image affects their health and happiness.

Older people often neglect their appearance and hygiene because the bathroom can become scary if they are frail or their mobility is not what it used to be. But a daily shower can help keep them feeling and looking their best.

What are the risk factors for depression in older adults?

Older adults are at high risk for depression due to the multiple physical and emotional changes that occur with ageing. Symptoms of depression can vary from mild to severe and range from mild irritability to severe emotional trauma. 

Depression can affect emotional well-being, relationships, physical health, and cognition. And if left untreated, it can be deadly.

What is the strongest predictor of depression among older adults?

Depression is strongly linked to heart disease and stroke, Type 2 diabetes, kidney disease, and many types of cancer. Depression contributes to over half of all deaths due to cancer, 65% of deaths due to heart disease, and 40% to stroke.

How can you tell if an older adult is suicidal?

If you notice any of the following behaviours in a loved one, it could signify that they are contemplating suicide.

  • Withdrawing from friends and family
  • Expressing feelings of hopelessness
  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Expressing feelings of being a burden to others
  • Increasing alcohol or drug abuse
  • Seeking out lethal means
  • Showing signs of rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Acting impulsively
  • Disrupting usual routines
  • Isolating themselves from others

What are the treatment options for depression in older adults?

Depression is a common mental health condition that can affect anyone at any age. It can negatively impact a person’s ability to function daily and can be particularly problematic for older adults.

However, depression is treatable and can often be prevented by recognising the warning signs and getting help as soon as possible. The following are some of the treatment options for depression in older adults.

  • Antidepressant medications
  • Electroconvulsive therapy
  • Light therapy
  • Transcranial magnetic stimulation
  • Vagus nerve stimulation
  • Deep brain stimulation

Keep in touch regularly

If you keep in touch with older people regularly, you’ll be able to understand the signs of change. You’ll notice any changes in behaviour, especially if all of these things are included in your conversations.

Finding time in your busy schedule can be challenging to care for your loved ones. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it.

Our companionship care service provides your loved ones with the support they need to continue doing what they love. This includes going on outings and getting about in the community, which can help reduce the risk of depression and loneliness.

This service is not a treatment for depression but can help you manage your symptoms and improve your quality of life.

If you’re worried about your loved one’s mental health, we’re here to help. Please get in touch, and one of our friendly staff members will guide you on what to do next, call 0115 648 6630.

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