There are many people who assume that becoming depressed is something that just happens when a person gets older. While this does happen, it is certainly not a given. There are plenty of ways for people of all ages to feel fulfilled and engaged in life. Often, seniors themselves see a lack of motivation or energy as part of the aging process. They don't believe that there is anything anyone can do to alleviate these feelings, and it may not even occur to them to ask for help. This is why it is so important for those who care for and work with older adults to know how to watch out for depression, so that they can get the help they need to live their life the way that they are meant to.
The Affect of Big Life Changes
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, more than 18% of those aged 35 or older experience some depression, and while many of these people have a history of the illness, in many cases this is something that they are first experiencing. When left untreated, a depressed older adult can experience fast cognitive decline and is more susceptible to physical illness as well.
While many of the symptoms are similar to what a younger person with the condition experiences, including feelings of sadness, social withdrawal, fatigue, sleep problems, or an obsession with death, there are signs that are more likely to manifest in an older adult, such as unexplained aches and pains, neglecting hygiene, irritability, slower movement, or refusing to eat. There may also be increased anxiety, memory problems, or a general feeling of hopelessness.
Not Necessarily Sad
While many think of sadness and depression are synonymous, this is not always the case, especially with older adults. Often, seniors insist that they are not sad at all, however they may be unmotivated, lack energy, or have increased physical pain such as worsening headaches or arthritis.
Those who work closely with older adults, either in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, or even community centers need to be aware of the signs of depression in the elderly. At times, encouraging older persons to stay active by suggesting different activities to stay engaged in their lives.. In many cases, however therapy and/or medication may be necessary to alleviate symptoms and help seniors lead a more fulfilling life once more.