Unfortunately, depression is very common among the senior population. Of course for some, this has been a lifelong condition. For others, it has been brought on by medical conditions, lifestyle changes like retirement, numerous losses, the impending loss of independence, and the reflection of one’s own life meaning with the realization of imminent death.
These life issues would be enough to make anyone depressed. Given that our seniors are facing most if not all of these issues at once, it’s no wonder depression is so prominent. It’s important to know about depression in your elderly loved one’s life in order to give them the help they need. No one needs to feel bad at any stage of life.
It isn’t normal to feel depressed all the time when you are a senior. In fact, most folks are satisfied with their life and reflection of their contributions to life. There are periods when feeling depressed is very normal, such as the loss of a spouse, friend, home, health or independence. These periods of sadness are a quite normal reaction to life circumstances.
In addition to normal life circumstances, chronic physical problems and medical conditions can cause depression beyond our feelings about the illness. Particularly cancer, diabetes and cardiac conditions can induce such symptoms. Certain medications can induce depression. If you notice a change after your loved one starts or changes a medication or dosing, immediately consult with the prescribing physician. If there is a family history of depression, the individual may be predisposed to it.
Depression is not a natural part of aging, although it is all too common. It is most common for seniors to experience depression around the winter holidays. Changes in weather can greatly impact mood in everyone, and with the dreary days of winter, it’s no wonder why seniors especially may feel blue. Holidays remind us of our losses, of friends and family. The lost of independence may limit visitation and participation in holiday events. Financial concerns may limit the opportunity to participate in celebrations. Overall weather, stress and losses make for a time of loneliness, separation and despair. Eventually, when the holidays pass, the mood may be restored. If not, if a depressed mood persists, then an evaluation for clinical depression may be in order.
Many things can cause feelings of depression in seniors. Regardless of the cause, if such a mood continues for more than a few weeks and is associated with some of the following symptoms, it may be helpful to consult professional help to get some relief.
Symptoms of Clinical Depression
- Persistent sadness
- Social isolation
- Angry outburst
- Lack of expression
- Withdrawal from normal activities
- Thoughts of death or suicide
- Lack of concentration
- Weight loss or gain
- Increased use of alcohol or prescription drugs for anxiety
If you notice these symptoms in your aging loved one, schedule an evaluation with their doctor. Offer them your compassion and comfort during this most vulnerable time. Depression can be treated, and your loved one can enjoy their life again.