Sep 1st, 2011 | By | Category: Lifestyle, Health & Fitness

Depression in Senior Citizens

Estimates suggest that a million seniors age 65 and over experience major depression.  Five million more have symptoms of depression that are bad enough to seek treatment.   The problem with depression in the elderly is it is often not diagnosed and therefore not treated.

Symptoms of depression in seniors include loss of appetite (or change in appetite), difficulty sleeping, loss of energy, lack of interest in activity/surroundings, general depressed mood/feeling sad all the time.  Any of these behaviors alone or in combination with others, and extending over time, may indicate the senior is depressed.   Depression can result from chemical issues in the brain/body, but it can also be triggered by death of a loved one, retirement, concerns about money, social isolation, health issues, loss of independence and fear of dying.

Seek Medical Attention for Symptoms of Depression

It is perfectly normal for us seniors to experience these symptoms for a short period of time (no longer than a week or two).  But if they continue longer than that, medical attention should be sought so the possibility of depression can be evaluated.  Seniors typically take more medications than younger generations, and some medications or interactions can cause symptoms of depression.  That possibility needs to be evaluated.  And the evaluation needs to be conducted by a competent medical professional.

Depression can be screened in your primary care physician’s office.  The screening takes just a few minutes, with a series of questions.  Your responses indicate whether or not you may have depression.  If the score hits a certain point, you will be referred for further evaluation of the possibility that you are depressed and need medical and/or psychiatric attention.

The important caveat here is to understand it is normal to feel sad by the death of friends or family; the grieving process can turn into depression that goes beyond ‘normal’ sadness, and the senior needs medical attention at that point.  It is normal to lose one’s appetite for a day or two… but not for a month.  It is normal to be concerned about a new health problem; it is not normal for it to be all-consuming, interfering with daily life and living.  If in doubt about any potential depression symptoms, consult your primary care physician immediately.


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