The good news: depression is not a normal or necessary part of aging. Senior depression can be treated, and with the right support, treatment, and self-help strategies you can feel better and live a happy and vibrant life.
Depression is a common problem in older adults. And its symptoms affect every aspect of your life, including your energy, appetite, sleep, and interest in work, hobbies, and relationships. Unfortunately, all too many depressed seniors fail to recognize the symptoms of depression, or don’t take the steps to get the help they need.
There are many reasons depression in older adults and the elderly is so often overlooked: • You may assume you have good reason to be down or that depression is just part of aging. • You may be isolated—which in itself can lead to depression—with few around to notice your distress. • You may not realize that your physical complaints are signs of depression. • You may be reluctant to talk about your feelings or ask for help. Depression isn’t a sign of weakness or a character flaw. It can happen to anyone, at any age, no matter your background or your previous accomplishments in life. Similarly, physical illness, loss, and the challenges of aging don’t have to keep you down.
You can feel better and enjoy your golden years once again, no matter what challenges you face. Recognizing depression in the elderly starts with knowing the signs and symptoms. Depression red flags include: • Sadness or feelings of despair • Unexplained or aggravated aches and pains • Loss of interest in socializing or hobbies • Weight loss or loss of appetite • Feelings of hopelessness or helplessness • Lack of motivation and energy • Sleep disturbances (difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, oversleeping, or daytime sleepiness) • Loss of self-worth (worries about being a burden, feelings of worthlessness or self-loathing • Slowed movement or speech • Increased use of alcohol or other drugs • Fixation on death; thoughts of suicide • Memory problems, slowed movement and speech • Neglecting personal care (skipping meals, forgetting meds, neglecting personal hygiene) While depression and sadness might seem to go hand and hand, many depressed seniors claim not to feel sad at all.
They may complain, instead, of low motivation, a lack of energy, or physical problems. In fact, physical complaints, such as arthritis pain or worsening headaches, are often the predominant symptom of depression in the elderly.
As you age, you experience many losses. oss is painful—whether it’s a loss of independence, mobility, health, your long-time career, or someone you love. Grieving over these losses is normal and healthy, even if the feelings of sadness last for a long time. Distinguishing between grief and clinical depression isn’t always easy, since they share many symptoms.