Changes in lifestyle, medical problems, retirement, and losing loved ones can all be sources of depression, but they do not have to be a prescription for it. Serious depression is not a normal part of aging. Recognizing the signs of depression in seniors is essential for treating it before it leads to serious problems.
Depression in Seniors: Common Signs
Every individual is different; seniors who are suffering from depression may show any combination of these symptoms:
- Feeling hopeless, sad, or "empty"
- Increased anxiety and irritability
- Increased forgetfulness or difficulty concentrating
- Lack of motivation or low energy
- Loss of interest in hobbies
- Weight loss or weight gain
- Sudden increase in alcohol or drug use
- Suicidal thoughts or a fixation on death.
One of the most important things to know about depression is that many times, the person suffering from it may be completely unaware of it. Often, they may not think they are suffering depression because they don't feel sad all the time. Depression shows itself in many ways; while sadness is a common symptom, it is not always present.
An increase in aches and pains is a common sign of depression--especially in seniors. Other symptoms beyond sadness and mood changes include slowed movement and speech, poor hygiene or poor personal care, inability to sleep, and feeling very tired all the time.
Don't Ignore the Signs
If you think someone you know may be suffering from depression, encourage a visit to the family physician for an evaluation. If you think you may be suffering from depression, don't try to "shake it off" or hope it will just go away. Often, depression can be treated with medications that can make a significant impact in just a few weeks. In some cases, depression can even be a side effect of other medications and can be eliminated by changing doses or trying a different medication.
Living with Depression
A healthy lifestyle can keep both your mind and your body healthy. Help curb the symptoms of depression by getting plenty of exercise. Even just a daily walk in the park will help. Try new activities and hobbies from time to time, even if you're not feeling up to it. Be sure to stay connected with others--one of the biggest causes of depression in seniors is isolation due to retirement, the death of family and friends, and relocation.