Clinical depression in seniors is extremely common, affecting about six million Americans over the age of 65. While depression in seniors is common, it’s far from normal and it’s certainly not inevitable. However, elderly people may be less like to receive treatment for depression. According to the National Institute on Aging, senior depression symptoms display differently than those of younger people. Symptoms of senior depression can also mimic those of several illnesses and medications. Recognizing the signs of depression in seniors is essential, as it may help the affected person seek the right support and treatment. So as your loved one enters their golden years, keep an eye out for the following signs of depression in seniors.
Signs of Depression in Seniors
The behavioral symptoms of depression are often the most telling. If your loved one is suffering from depression, you may notice that they have lost interest in activities that they used to enjoy. They may also exhibit social withdrawal, isolating themselves from friends or social gatherings. While these symptoms are common, they can lead to a vicious cycle as the person becomes isolated. That, in turn, can worsen depression symptoms. There are several other behavioral signs of depression in seniors:
- Unusual fearfulness, anxiety, or paranoia
- Decreased emphasis on everyday self-care
- Pacing, fidgeting, or other unusual physical tics
The cognitive symptoms of depression in seniors often go overlooked. These symptoms sometimes mimic the signs of illnesses like dementia, which can be confusing for caregivers. However, there are several key differences between depression and dementia.
With depression, mental decline is rapid, often taking place over the course of a few weeks. Mental decline is slower in dementia patients. While both dementia and depression patients may have trouble concentrating, depression patients will maintain control of their language and cognitive skills in a way that dementia patients cannot. For example, depression patients will be able to state the correct date and time, while dementia patients may not be able to. There are several other cognitive symptoms of depression to watch out for:
- Increased memory problems
- Ever-present sadness or thoughts of death
- Decreased cognitive abilities or “brain fog”
Many seniors are plagued by medical conditions that can be painful or life-threatening. Any of these can result in depression. However, several depression symptoms may actually mimic those of chronic medical conditions such as Parkinson’s disease. The distinction between depression symptoms and those of other illnesses can be easy to miss – especially for caretakers outside of the medical field. If you’re unsure about your loved one’s condition, look for these key physical depression symptoms:
- Unexplained physical pain and headaches
- Insomnia or hypersomnia (sleeping too much)
- Ongoing fatigue
- Changes in weight or appetite
- Unexplained gastrointestinal symptoms
Sadly, depression sometimes goes untreated. Sufferers may assume that depression is a normal part of aging, or they may confuse their symptoms with those of another illness. However, there are a host of physical, behavioral, and cognitive symptoms of depression that shouldn’t be ignored. Accessible treatment options include medicine, psychotherapy, and counseling. A supportive environment is also a great first step and may help the person suffering from depression obtain the help they need to get better.
Maintaining your mental health is a key part of long-term wellness as you age, which is why it’s part of our focus at Springhouse Village. We’re committed to providing a friendly and healthy atmosphere where our residents can thrive. To learn about the many things we do to support the health and well-being of our residents, contact Springhouse Village today.