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March 01, 2016
Depression in Older People
Getting older can mean many changes for your body and mind, but depression doesn’t have to be one of them. Depression in adults can sometimes wrongly be seen as part of the ageing process. Anyone can suffer from depression and the most important thing is to get help.
We’ll take a look at the signs of depression and what can be done about it, but firstly, what can actually cause depression in the elderly?
The feeling of isolation or loneliness: Living alone, you may not be able to get out of the house as much due to mobility issues or the loss and recent bereavement of loved ones can all contribute to depression.
Health Issues: People will often develop many health issues as they get older, issues with severe or chronic pain, illness or disability or any other debilitating issues can all have their toll on people.
No sense of purpose: When you get to the age of retirement, many people can lose their sense of purpose or don’t know what to do with themselves when they have ceased working.
Fear: Depression can also come from fear of dying, financial issues or loss.
There can be a lot of different signs of depression in older people, across a number of categories. We’ll break the categories down as follows:
Thoughts: Loss of self-esteem, suicidal thoughts, indecisiveness and thoughts of failure and that you can’t do anything right.
Behaviour: Withdrawing from friends or family, neglect of responsibilities, feeling un-motivated, feeling agitated and the decline in ability to function.
Feelings: Hopelessness or emptiness, you may have a feeling of moodiness or irritability and at times feel overwhelmed or worthless.
Physical Symptoms: Feeling tired all the time, loss of appetite, slowed movement, nausea and unexplained aches.
Everyone can feel some of these symptoms from time to time, this does not necessarily mean that they are depressed or suffer from depression and someone feeling depressed may not necessarily have all of the symptoms. It is when you have a number of these symptoms, across 3 of the categories that you may be suffering from depression.
What can you do about it?
‘’You can’t teach an old dog new tricks’’ is a completely false statement. It’s an utter myth to think that you can’t learn new skills or make beneficially lifestyle changes in your older years. Yes, its true people can be set in their ways, when they’ve lived a certain lifestyle for their entire life it can be difficult to change, but not impossible.
When you’re depressed you may not want to do anything, but being completely inactive and isolated isn’t good for your mental or physical health, the more physically, mentally and socially active you are, the better you’ll feel.
Exercise: There’s no question that regular physical exercise does wonders for your body and mind. You don’t have to join a gym to reap the benefits, house work or going out for a walk can both help and there are a number of safe exercises you can do if your mobility is poor.
Socialise: When feeling depressed it is always good to talk to someone. Family, friends or your GP can all help to take the pressure off of you and once you speak to them about how you feel, it can be a weight of your chest. The hardest aspect about this is initially telling them how you’re feeling. Other ways of socialising that may be beneficial to you are to join a depression support group or any other group that interests you.
Lifestyle balance: It’s important to get the right balance in your life. This include, a healthy diet, getting enough sleep (7-9 hours a night), exercising, socialising and having your own responsibilities, whether that is in work, taking care of a pet or learning new skills.
There are also medical treatments that can be considered. However, as older people are more sensitive to drug side effects, any medical treatment should always be discussed with your doctor.
Please remember, if you are feeling depressed, you are not alone. Many people of all ages suffer from depression, but you don’t have to go through it alone. Seek help when needed, click HERE to be redirected to Aware‘s website, a group that can help people with depression and click HERE to learn more about the type of care we provide.