You’ve seen Dad shuffling around his apartment irritable and snappy. When he’s not complaining about his persistent aches and pains, he’s sleeping or eating excessive amounts of food. He has little interest in his old woodworking hobby and no longer plays racketball with the guys. You wonder — Is Dad depressed?
While depression is not necessarily a consequence of aging, according to the CDC older adults are at a greater risk for depression for two main reasons:
- The majority of older adults have at least one chronic health condition like heart disease or arthritis, and 50% will have two or more. Individuals with illness or limited functioning are more likely to be depressed.
- Older adults are often misdiagnosed by their healthcare provider who might view their symptoms as normal reactions to life changes resulting from old age. Older adults may experience changes in vision, hearing, mobility, home life, and work status. They don’t always recognize their symptoms as being medical.
The Geriatric Mental Health Foundation reports that when depression is properly diagnosed and treated, over 80% of those suffering recover and return to their normal lives. Depression is not a passing mood or sadness connected to grief or everyday blues. Rather, it’s a condition that can persist for weeks and months. Additionally, depression can affect a person’s ability to function in everyday life.
Common Symptoms of Depression
Common symptoms of depression in the elderly population include:
- Difficulty sleeping/excessive sleeping
- Feeling worthless or helpless
- Difficulty with concentration
- Sadness (that lasts for two weeks or more)
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Irritability and restlessness
- Persistent aches and pains
Fortunately, there are different types of treatments available for older adults suffering from depression.
- Antidepressant Medications
- Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT)
- Support Groups
- Lifestyle changes
Individual treatment depends on a variety of factors including a patient’s biological, environmental, and psychological characteristics. Sometimes several different treatments need to be tried to find the most effective one.
The support of a caregiver or friend is essential. By scheduling group outings, assisting with medical appointments, preparing healthy meals, and organizing medications, caregivers can help an older adult with depression to proactively improve his/her state of being.
Helping Dad Feel Better
If Dad’s symptoms persist for more than two weeks, it’s important to bring him to his physician. Remember to bring a list of all Dad’s medications (including vitamins and over-the-counter medicines) as well as detailed information about his medical history.
Perhaps most importantly, Dad needs to understand that symptoms that continue for more than two weeks are not normal. With the proper intervention, Dad can feel better and return to his old activities.