Depression in Older Adults
Domlur, Bengaluru Jan 22, 2017
Depression and old age are both very difficult to cope with, and when the both come together, they really take their toll on a person. With mounting tensions of disease, bills, isolation, etc., it is more often than not unavoidable among our elders to feel hopeless, and they certainly need support from society to help pass them pass this emotional barrier.
The definition of depression goes a long way to describe why elders are its common victim. Depression is a severe medical condition in which an individual feels hopeless, very sad, and unimportant and is frequently incapable to live in a regular way. As the body ages, it loses strength. More often than not, elders will not be able to hold their own. It is no surprise that depression is a common occurrence among elders.
Statistics by National Mental Health of USA put depression in older adults top among occurrences of mental disorders among adults. On an average, 6% of all adults find themselves in the grasp of depression. Furthermore, 16% of all suicide deaths consisted of people aged above 65.
Reasons Why Elders Feel Depressed:
It is a common misconception that depression is a surety of growing older. A major chunk of people believe that growing older means an end to happy life and being sad is what defines old age. They could not be more wrong.
Let us elaborate on what we’ve already seen before-
As people grow up, dependency on others increases. And if these dependency needs, both of physical and emotional nature aren’t reciprocated, depression finds its way into their minds.
With people’s lives becoming faster, the slow-paced dependent life of an elder often gets ignored. Without an emotional tether, elders are bound to feel depressed.
The prospect of being chronically ill, as many elders usually are, is usually scary and depressing to elders. The loss of peers within the same age group, or of family relatives, is also a huge demotivation to continue for our aged.
A few certain diseases and disorders have depression as their symptom. These ailments are usually contracted by older people. The list of diseases which cause depression are-
- Parkinson’s disease
- Thyroid disorders
- Heart disease
- Vitamin B12 deficiency
- Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis
Last but not the least; we know elders are the largest consumers of medicinal drugs. It is highly possible that one of the many medicines they consume might have depression as its side-effect. Here is a list of medication that is known to cause side-effects-
- Beta-blockers (e.g. Inderal, Lopressor)
- Blood pressure medication (clonidine)
- Sleeping pills
- Calcium-channel blockers
- Tranquilizers (e.g. Xanax, Valium, Halcion)
- Estrogens (e.g. Premarin, Prempro)
- Prescription for Parkinson’s disease
- Medication for Ulcers (e.g. Tagamet, Zantac)
- Steroids (e.g. prednisone and cortisone)
- Heart drugs containing reserpine
- Painkillers and arthritis drugs
- High-cholesterol medicines (e.g. Lipitor, Zocor, Mevacor)
Common Signs of Depression Among The Elderly
- A propensity for isolation. If the person commonly prefers to stay in isolation, it might be a sign of depression.
- Difficulty in concentration
- Slow language and motor skills
- A worry about memory problems(despite having or not having any)
- A need to drink alcohol
It is definitely worrisome how a lot of signs of depression mesh with what old age usually does to a person. It is imperative to consult a psychologist than to make your own diagnosis.
Depression vs. Dementia
Depression in the elderly needs to be separated from dementia in elderly as both have different treatment. It is easy to confuse among the two in elderly patients.
Here’s the difference between depression and dementia among elderly
- In depression, mental decline happens very quickly. Dementia works at a slower pace.
- Usually, cognitive functions are impaired to great extents in dementia. Unless due to any other disease, cognitive functioning should be fine in a depressed patient.
- In a case of pure dementia, the patient doesn’t worry too much about memory problems (while actively losing memory). A depressed patient will worry too much about such problems while not losing any.
The patient or his acquaintances can actively help to cure a person of depression. Here are some do’s that can help combat depression.
- Move your body- Actively encourage elders to take part in group exercises such as laughter clubs or yoga groups. A little activity and mingling go a long way against depression.
- Avoid isolation- Make sure elders are not isolated. Do your best to make active and frequent conversations with them. Get them pets if you are not available.
- Eat Well- Start by reducing sugars and carbohydrates from your elderly’s diets. Focus on proteins and healthy fats. Make sure they have a good intake of Omega 3 fatty acids.
- Quality Sleep- Make sure your elders get at least 7-9 hours of sleep. If insomnia is a problem, do your best to help them sleep in the morning.
Considering the medical treatment of depression in elderly, we tread on a thin line here. In cases of extreme depression, though the use of anti-depressants may become a must, caution is advised in elderly patients as the effects of such drugs may be devastating to older people.
If possible, ask a professional to perform Geriatric Depression Test. Find out their depression score on the elderly depression scale and consult treatment according to it.
It is only due to the wisdom of elders that the world finds its balance. Make sure you do everything in your power and take time out to help them.
To help people fight the battle of anxiety, disturbance and depression, Portea offers counselling services over call, chat and home visits. One can discuss their personal & emotional issues with our qualified counsellors from the comfort of your home. Visit: portea.typeathought.com to know more.