Recognizing Signs of Depression in Seniors

Posted By on October 22, 2019

Depression is becoming a prevalent issue among older adults, but it is not a normal part of aging. Studies show that “most older adults feel satisfied with their lives, despite having more illnesses or physical problems.” However, as we get older, changes and life events may cause feelings of uneasiness and stress. 

HarborChase Senior Living knows the importance of being able to recognize signs of depression in your parent or loved one. We want to extend a helping hand and provide information regarding the condition and how to recognize it so proper treatment can be attained.

What Is Depression?

The National Institute of Mental Health defines depression as a common mood disorder. It can affect everything from personality to how a person handles their daily routines. A person dealing with depression may find themselves regularly feeling melancholy or having trouble eating or sleeping. They may even have issues focusing on work or hobbies. Symptoms of depression can include but are not limited to:

  • Persistent sadness, anxiety, or feelings of emptiness
  • Prolonged feelings of hopelessness
  • Irritability
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating and issues with memory
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Changes in appetite

A person may experience one or more of these symptoms at one time or another, but a depression diagnosis occurs if the symptoms last for two weeks or longer. Depression can come in varying forms, and it can have different ranges of severity. Some of the types include:

  • Persistent Depressive Disorder (Dysthymia): Periods where symptoms of depression last two or more years. Persistent Depressive Disorder can fluctuate between periods of intense symptoms and periods of less severe symptoms. 
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder: Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.) is when depression is triggered during the winter months. It’s believed the generally colder temperatures and shorter amounts of sunlight during the winter months are the causes of seasonal affective disorder. 

Depression Isn’t Always Sadness

Sadness may be a symptom of depression, but it’s only a possible symptom. Depression in seniors, in particular, may not show clear signs of sadness. Look for a lack of motivation towards activities or hobbies they previously enjoyed. Ailments such as arthritis can also be amplified, or neglect in personal hygiene, despite being capable of taking proper care of themselves.

It is possible that on the surface, interacting with others, the senior is perfectly happy. But it’s other tell-tale symptoms in association with each other. A variety of factors often causes depression in seniors. HelpGuide notes some of these factors as the following:

  • Health Problems
  • Loneliness/Isolation
  • Reduced Sense of Purpose
  • Fears
  • Death of friends, family, or pets

HelpGuide also lists several medical conditions that can cause depression in seniors or make previous symptoms worse. Among them are stroke, heart disease, cancers, and even different forms of dementia. It is also important to note that various medications can affect one’s mental and emotional state, which could lead to symptoms of depression.

Awareness Makes All The Difference

While it’s up to a medical professional to make a formal diagnosis, knowledge is a crucial component. Understanding symptoms and potential risks of depression in seniors can lay a foundation for helping your parent or loved one. Creating a sense of community can help provide a feeling of purpose and a sense of belonging to those dealing with depression.

While handling depression requires medical assistance, recognizing the signs is the first step to helping the senior in your life. As we grow older, our social circle shrinks and the potential for isolation increases. A step towards creating a sense of community and building relationships may come in the form of a senior living community, like HarborChase. At HarborChase Senior Living, we offer our residents engaging activities and social opportunities to continue your loved one’s growth.

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