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Signs of Depression in Seniors

Signs of Depression in Seniors,

As we get older, it’s normal to go through periods of sadness or grief after losing a loved one or when facing declining health. However, if those feelings of sadness persist and start interfering with daily life, it could be a sign of something more serious, like depression. Depression in seniors is not just a low mood or feeling blue. It is a clinical mood disorder that should not be overlooked or dismissed as a normal part of aging.

While the CDC reports that the majority of older adults are not depressed, it is still a condition that causes concern among aging seniors. Depression often goes undiagnosed and untreated since many seniors don’t report feeling depressed because they think it’s just part of getting older. Others are reluctant to ask for help. Failing to recognize the signs and get proper treatment can allow depression to worsen, decreasing quality of life and potentially leading to suicide in extreme cases.

Signs of Depression in Older Adults

Knowing the signs of depression can help seniors, caregivers, and loved ones identify it and get connected to support and resources. Here are some common signs of depression to watch for in older adults:

  • Persistent sad or “empty” mood
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities once enjoyed
  • Feelings of hopelessness, guilt, and worthlessness  
  • Fatigue and lack of energy 
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
  • Sleep disturbances, such as sleeping too much or not being able to stay asleep
  • Changes in appetite and unintentional weight loss or gain
  • Physical aches, pains, headaches, or digestive problems with no clear cause
  • Neglecting personal care needs, like bathing and grooming
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

While it’s natural for moods to fluctuate from day to day, if these signs last longer or continue to worsen, it could indicate clinical depression requiring medical treatment. Depression in seniors is not a normal part of aging, and it won’t just go away. It’s a serious but treatable condition; the sooner it is recognized, the better the outcome. 

Options for Treating Depression

A variety of therapies and lifestyle changes can help reduce symptoms of depression and improve the overall well-being of aging adults with depression. Treatments may include:

  • Medication. Antidepressants like SSRIs can help correct chemical imbalances in the brain that contribute to depression. However, medications may need to be closely monitored in seniors due to other health conditions and medications.
  • Psychotherapy or talk therapy. Therapy helps seniors change negative thought patterns and cope with life’s challenges in a healthy way. Cognitive behavioral therapy, in particular, can provide helpful strategies for battling depression.

Self-Care for Depression

Beyond treatment, developing habits to boost mental health is also essential. When seniors are bored or lonely, the signs of depression can intensify. They can feel isolated from friends and family and think they have nowhere to turn. Some self-care tips include:

  • Stay socially and physically active. Join a fitness class, walk with a friend or family member, or attend a group function.
  • Maintain a nutritious diet. Eat a diet that is well-balanced and contains fresh fruit and vegetables as well as lean protein.
  • Get adequate sleep. Not getting enough sleep can affect your mood and overall well-being.
  • Find ways to relax. Reading a book, taking a bath, listening to music, or meditating can all help you unwind and relax at the end of the day. 

All of these things can help elevate mood and prevent depression from worsening, and they work for people of all ages, not just older adults.

If you have an aging loved one battling depression, support and encouragement from family are crucial. Some things you can do to show your support include:

  • Help them stick to their treatment plan, engage in activities they enjoy, and schedule counseling sessions. 
  • Be patient, listen without judgment, and remind them you care. 
  • Check in regularly and learn about their condition to better support their recovery.

By accessing proper treatment and utilizing healthy coping strategies, seniors can find relief from depression and regain their quality of life.

If you notice potential signs of depression in yourself or an aging loved one, don’t wait to seek help. Depression is nothing to be ashamed of, and effective treatments like counseling and medication can help relieve symptoms and improve quality of life. Early intervention is critical to recovery. At Peak Behavioral Health in Santa Teresa, New Mexico, we can help patients from adolescents to seniors. To learn more about what we offer, please contact us today!


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