Depression is a common problem among older adults, but it is NOT a normal part of aging. In fact, studies show that most older adults feel satisfied with their lives, despite having more illnesses or physical problems. However, important life changes that happen as we get older may cause feelings of uneasiness, stress, and sadness.
For instance, the death of a loved one, moving from work into retirement, or dealing with a serious illness can leave people feeling sad or anxious. After a period of adjustment, many older adults can regain their emotional balance, but others do not and may develop depression.
Elderly patients might also be reluctant to talk about their feelings or fail to understand that physical symptoms can be a sign of depression. For elderly people living independently, isolation can make it difficult to reach out for help.Symptoms of depression in older adults
The essential feature of a major depressive episode is a period of at least two weeks when the person experiences either depressed mood (most of the day, nearly every day) or loss of interest or pleasure in nearly all activities.3 According to the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry, the most common symptoms of depression in the elderly include:
Medical problems, including chronic medical conditions, can trigger, or worsen the symptoms of, depression in elderly patients. Any medical condition, especially those that are painful, debilitating, or life-threatening can result in symptoms of depression, including:
Effective treatment of depression in older adults can require more than one approach.
There is always a risk of suicide with major depressive disorder. According to the latest data (2015), the second highest suicide rate in the United States (19.4) occurred in people 85 years or older. The highest rate (19.6) was among adults between 45 and 64 years of age. Though a past history of suicide threats or attempts remains the biggest risk factor, most completed suicides are not preceded by unsuccessful attempts. If an elderly patient shows any signs of suicidal thoughts or behaviours, it is important to seek immediate assistance.