Depression in Senior Citizens: How to Detect it in Time

February 18, 2019
After retiring and reaching a certain age, people can start to show symptoms of depression because they don't feel like they're useful for society. That's when it's important for their loved ones to help the elderly person so that they understand that their life hasn't ended yet. In addition, they can help them understand that there is still a lot to experience.

For several different reasons, people over 60 years of age can experience several episodes of depression. Feelings of sadness and frustration change the day-to-day life of elderly people. In this article, you can find out how to detect mental illnesses that can lead to depression in senior citizens.

Depression in senior citizens: what you need to know

Depression in senior citizens is common because many are lonely

After retiring, many senior citizens feel like they aren’t useful. They feel like life has no meaning. Thinking this way can sometimes make them depressed because they’re not enjoying their remaining years of life (which can be 10, 15, or even 20+).

Unfortunately, even though it’s not part of the aging process, depression in the senior citizens is quite common.

  • This can be related to how much their lives changed in recent years.
  • It could also have to do with receiving recognition for what they’ve done in life.
  • It could even be how they get along with their family and the activities they can do.

Changes in their Lifestyle

The changes in their lifestyle after the age of 60 are really important. For instance, they once had a full work-schedule from Monday to Friday. Now, they wake up early and stay at home without much to do.

Some situations in life can cause their depression to become worse. These include:

  • Moving from the family home (to live in a smaller place or live with their children)
  • Going to a retirement home
  • Chronic pains and severe illnesses
  • The loss of a spouse, siblings, or close friends
  • Not being independent
  • Lack of responsibilities
  • Few available activities
  • Financial problems (change in lifestyle due to having).

Depression isn’t always noticeable by most people around the elderly person. They don’t notice the symptoms due to thinking that they’re temporary or a quirk of old age.

However, something happens when they have negative emotions for a long time. They can have physical problems and sometimes they can even stop eating or try to end their lives.

It’s also necessary to know that an elderly person can become depressed after being diagnosed with a disease.

For instance, this could happen if they’re diagnosed with cancer, Parkinson’s disease, the onset of dementia, etc… The disease can become worse if they take medications, like sleeping pills. Drinking too much alcohol can also affect this disease.

Read this article too:

Risks and Side Effects of Sleeping Pills

How to detect depression in senior citizens

Depressed senior citizen

As adults, people spend a lot of time thinking about retiring and having gray hair. You might think about sharing your love with others, enjoying a beautiful house by the beach or in the mountains. You might think about reading the newspaper in a rocking chair. Or, you might even think about getting periodic visits from your children and grandchildren.

However, the reality doesn’t always resemble this fantasy. Maybe you’ll have to move to a retirement home because your family can’t take care of you. Your spouse might have passed away or suffer from a disease. Also, your physical pain feel won’t even allow you to get to the door, much less do any other activity.

The aging is the worst part of life for many people. There are many hard changes that a person has to overcome. These include the loss of friends and loved ones, feeling inferior and unprotected, and even an inability to help society. Due to these life changes, depression in senior citizens is very common.

A senior citizen’s children, grandchildren, and nephews can detect the first symptoms of this mental disease. They can also help them understand that their life isn’t over yet. Also, they can help them understand that there is still a lot to experience.

Sad senior citizen

Initial symptoms

There are several initial symptoms for this kind of depression. Among them are:

  • Feelings of sadness
  • A lack of activity that lasts for a while (maybe even weeks)
  • The loss of interest in things they used to enjoy
  • A lack of satisfaction or enjoyment of basic activities.

On the other hand, a senior citizen can also feel things like:

  • Being more tired or fatigued than usual. This can happen due to not having enough physical activity.
  • Loss of appetite (and as a result, weight).
  • A desire to isolate themselves from the people around them.
  • Difficulties falling asleep (senior citizens can sleep less than adults: approximately 4-6 hours)

There are other symptoms that you can see in your parents or grandparents: feelings of inferiority, guilt, or lack of confidence, including suicidal thoughts or strange behaviors (that they never had before).

Check out this articles:

Four Important Exercises for Seniors Citizens

How to help a senior citizen with depression 

Senior citizen with doctor

For the first step, it’s important to remember that aging is a part of life. Therefore, negative feelings shouldn’t be part of this stage of life. Just like other parts of life, this stage has good and bad things.

Physical or financial limitations can be two reasons why a senior citizen can feel depressed. However, there are several ways to help them work around them:

  • First, they can always choose activities or work that fit their condition.
  • Second, you can remind them that asking for help from people around them isn’t a bad thing. It’s a great way for loved ones to give back to their parent or grandparent.

On the other hand, loved ones should force the elders in their family to do an activity they don’t want to do.

Diplomacy in these cases usually works very well. Unless their life is in danger or the person has many problems. Sometimes letting them live their own life is a healthy recommendation.

And, of course, it’s very important to do things with them and not let them be alone for a long time. For instance, a weekly visit from several family members spread throughout the week is a great way to deal with depression in senior citizens.

  • Yesavage, J. A., Brink, T. L., Rose, T. L., Lum, O., Huang, V., Adey, M., & Leirer, V. O. (1982). Development and validation of a geriatric depression screening scale: A preliminary report. Journal of Psychiatric Research.
  • Brodaty, H., Peters, K., Boyce, P., Hickie, I., Parker, G., Mitchell, P., & Wilhelm, K. (1991). Age and depression. Journal of Affective Disorders.
  • Cole, M. G., & Dendukuri, N. (2003). Risk factors for depression among elderly community subjects: A systematic review and meta-analysis. American Journal of Psychiatry.