Spotting Signs Of Depression In The Elderly

spotting signs of depression in the elderly

Seniors have a much higher risk of experiencing depression, primarily due to social isolation. The combination of mobility issues, inability to drive, or the loss of a spouse and close peers contribute to feelings of loneliness, isolation, and depression. In addition, medication side effects can compound the problem. 

Signs Of Depression And Social Isolation In Older Adults 

Proactively preventing senior depression by providing a solid social support system is a significant first step. However, depression can “creep up” on anyone. If you live far away from your parent or grandparent, it can be even more difficult to notice their depression or low moods because they can put on a brave face during video chats or phone calls. 

According to the National Insitute on Aging

Everyone needs social connections to survive and thrive. But as people age, they often find themselves spending more time alone. Studies show that loneliness and social isolation are associated with higher rates of depression 

9 Signs A Senior Is Depressed 

The following are some of the most common signs of depression. Check-in with senior loved ones regularly – using your eyes, ears, and heart – and take note if you register any of the following: 

A persistent worried, sad, or vacant mood 

Some seniors may openly voice how sad they are feeling. Or, they may begin sharing constant worries – a sign of anxiety. These are worth exploring to learn more about what type of support would be best. You may also notice a vacant, absent, or apathetic mood. Those are also signs of senior depression. 

Feeling helpless, hopeless, or worthless 

For many seniors, aging means relinquishing abilities, hobbies, and activities that make their lives rich and meaningful. In addition, the inability to walk independently, giving up the keys, incontinence issues or diminishing sight and hearing make it difficult to engage in the world around them. As a result, seniors retreat into themselves and begin to feel unwanted, unneeded, and unable to contribute to or participate in the world around them. 

If you notice any of these signs, read Senior Health & Wellbeing Depends on Social Interaction for tips on keeping seniors engaged in their communities. 

Restlessness, irritability, having trouble sitting still 

Does your senior loved one resemble the fidgety youngsters in your life? The core causes may be the same. Without a purpose, something to captivate their interest, and an energetic outlet, seniors get restless, and the lack of inspiration in their lives depresses their mood.  

An excellent place to start is to make sure they’re getting regular daily exercise in a way that fits their physical health and lifestyle. The following posts are good places to start. Once a physical routine is part of the mix, you can branch out to support a depressed senior in other ways. 

Lack of interest in activities, hobbies, or social engagements that used to be pleasurable 

Is your loved one starting to skip activities or engagements that used to bring him/her pleasure? No longer attending religious services or affiliated groups? Avoiding the bunco or men’s club meetings? Letting their beloved garden go limp or to die altogether?  

All are signs of depression. If not depression, it is a sign that something needs to be addressed – vision, transportation, new glasses or hearing aids, mobility support, etc. – so seniors can take part again. If the lack of engagement continues, depression is sure to follow. 

Decreased energy or general fatigue 

Depression affects both mood and energy levels. Unfortunately for depressed seniors, it’s easy for busy family members to assume their lack of energy or general fatigue is linked to aging or medication side effects. However, seniors who are eating well, getting regular exercise, and have regular social interaction are far less likely to experience chronic fatigue unless it is a symptom of a medical diagnosis. 

Difficulty concentrating, remembering things, or making decisions 

Sometimes, issues around memory, concentration, and decision-making are signs of dementia, so families may assume that’s the case or just laugh off “senior moments.” However, the same apathy, lack of interest in life, and decreased energy mentioned above can lead to cognitive glitches. 

Any signs of memory loss should be noted and attended to by the senior’s healthcare provider ASAP to assess the cause. 

Sleeping issues 

Sleeping issues can vary from insomnia (inability to sleep or stay asleep) to sleeping too much. Sleeping issues are a common senior complaint. Not surprisingly, low daily activity levels and lack of social engagement are huge contributors. The body needs to expend energy in order to sleep well.  

Visit Insomnia & Seniors by The Sleep Foundation to learn more. 

Eating less (or more) than usual 

Signs of unusual weight loss or weight gain is always a sign that seniors may need more support. It can also be a sign of depression or anxiety. A combination of skipped meals, diminished appetite, or binging on junk foods eventually takes its toll, setting the stage for malnourishment. 

Wishing to die or suicide attempts 

Seniors who live alone and become depressed are more prone to suicidal thoughts or to feel their life is no longer worth living. They may make comments along the lines of, “I wish I would die,” “I’m ready to die,” or thoughts along those lines. Take comments like these very seriously. They are a cry for help and indicate that a shift must be made to increase your loved one’s quality of life. 

We Are Here to Provide Support 

Have you considered enlisting the help of an in-home caregiving agency? Senior caregivers can pop in as little or as often as you wish. Depending on the needs of your loved one, we can provide companionship, help with grocery shopping and meals, and we can also transport them to their favorite activities, meetings, or meals with friends.  

Contact HomeAide Home Care to learn more about how our senior care services can prevent or eliminate senior depression. (510) 247-1200. 

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