By: Darleen Mahoney
Depression is a common problem in older adults. It may be difficult to distinguish the difference between a senior who is just feeling “sad” and one who is experiencing geriatric depression. Geriatric depression is a mental or emotional disorder affecting older adults. These seniors that are would fall under “high risk” might be those that have experienced strokes, hypertension, atrial fibrillation, diabetes, cancer, dementia, and chronic pain. There are specific signs that would tend to be lend more to geriatric depression over moments of sadness. It is important to be aware of these signs because there are also steps to take to help our Seniors, depression is not a normal stage to getting older. Their “golden year” should be just that…golden!
Some signs and symptoms to look for would include: decreased energy levels, more physical problems, such as arthritis and headaches. Other signs that need to be addressed quite seriously would be loss of self-worth, slowed speech, increasing alcohol intake or drugs, thoughts of suicide.
Because depression is not normal and addressing them with our elderly can be tricky, pay attention to signs other than verbal.
“Older adults often say, ‘I am not sad,” or ‘I am not lonely,’ because they do not want to be a burden on the family,”
“Instead, they show signs of distress by wringing their hands excessively, getting agitated or irritable, or having difficulty sitting still.” according to Dr. Strem (www.health.com/health).
Be vigilant of these types of communication signs as well as the physical signs to be more proactive in care and getting the help needed.
The good news is there is help! There are medications as well as lifestyle changes!
Medications Include: www.healthline.com/health/depression/elderly#treatment5
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
- Selective serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
- Tricyclic antidepressants
- Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
Lifestyle Changes Include: www.healthline.com/health/depression/elderly#treatment5
- Increased physical activity
- Finding a new hobby or interest
- Having regular visits with family and friends
- Getting enough sleep daily
- Eating a well-balanced diet
If you think that you or your loved one is suffering from geriatric depression, encourage treatment and offer your support. If they are living in a Retirement community, Assisted Living facility, or any type of senior housing environment where you might have access to reach out for help, then please do so.