The Elderly and Depression: An Introduction

While we all love the older members of our family, we do not always recognise when they become depressed. This is because we often put their depression down to the effects of old age, medication or illness. However, understanding depression in the elderly is of the utmost importance due to the serious effects depression can have.

These include insomnia, high blood pressure and even heart attacks. Depression may also make it difficult for older people to deal with any other health issues they may have.

In the first instance, it is necessary to understand what can lead to depression in the elderly. The most common cause is the feeling of loneliness due to being single, widowed or divorced. Add to this the fact that the elderly often live by themselves and the feeling of isolation becomes palpable. Memories of the past can also cause stress.

elderly and depression

Older people often also feel useless due the effects old age on their bodies. They find it difficult to perform tasks that in years gone by they would have managed with ease, which adds to their distress. It is also not uncommon for older people to fear sickness and death, which can bring on anxiety.

Treating the elderlyfor depression can be difficult. Many elderly people will refuse treatment. The most common reasons for refusal are:

  • Concern for the cost of treatment.
  • Not acknowledging their depression.
  • Thinking that their situation is just another aspect of aging.
  • Unable to see how their situation to can be improved.

Older people tend to be fiercely independent. They do not like to think that they are suffering from depression and many may not actually believe that depression exists. Approaching an older person about depression should be done with tact. Depression in elderly, however, is a serious problem and needs to be addressed appropriately.

There are several treatments available for elderlypeople with depression and it is important that you ensure that your loved one seeks treatment. First, however, you will need to recognise that the problem is depression and then convince your loved one to seek treatment.

The most effective form of treatment comes from having friends and family who support your loved one. Community involvement is essential. This can mean reaching out to your local church or support centre. Counselling is also an excellent option as it does not require medication and it also means that a healthcare professional is included in the treatment process.
A psychotherapist or psychiatric nurse will be able to give you information about the degree of the depression and the steps you need to take to help your loved one.

These steps may include the use of prescription anti-depression drugs. There are some anti-depression drugs on the market that do not require a prescription. However, you should consult your doctor before allowing your loved one to use them as older people are often taking other medicines with which they could react.

Depression can have a significant effect on the quality of life of the elderly. It is vital that it is recognised early and treated so that they can enjoy their remaining days to the full.

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