Depression in the Elderly: How to Detect it in Time

· June 9, 2017
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 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, we want to tell you how to detect a mental disease with these characteristics.

Depression in the elderly: what you need to know

After retiring, many people feel like they aren’t useful. They feel like life has no meaning. This time for thinking sometimes makes them depressed. They don’t enjoy the years that they have left to live (which can be 10, 15, or even 20+).

Unfortunately, depression in the elderly is very common. This happens even though it isn’t part of the aging process.

  • This can be related to how much their lives changed in recent years.
  • It could also have to do with whether or not they receive 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.

Lifestyle changes

The changes in their lifestyle after the age of 60 are really important.

For instance, they used to work from Monday to Friday. Their schedule was full. Now, they wake up early and stay at home without much to do.

Some situations can cause a greater depression. 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 diseases
  • The loss of a spouse, siblings, or close friends
  • The loss of independence
  • The lack of obligations
  • Few available activities
  • Economic problems (changing from the lifestyle they’re used to).

Depression in old age isn’t always noticed by people around the elderly person. They downplay the symptoms, 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. Sometimes the elderly person can even stop eating or try to end their lives.

It’s also necessary to know that discovering a disease in an elderly person can cause depression.

For instance, this happens if they’re diagnosed with cancer, Parkinson’s, 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.

How to detect depression in the elderly

As adults, we spend a lot of time thinking about retiring and having gray hair. You might think about sharing a lot of love, 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 facility because your family can’t take care of you. Your spouse might have passed away or suffer from a disease. In addition, the physical pain that you feel won’t even let you get to the door, much less do any other activity.

The aging process is the worst stage of life for many.

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.

Because of this, depression is very frequent.

The children, grandchildren, and nephews can detect the first symptoms of this mental disease. They can also 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.

Initial symptoms

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

  • 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, the elderly person can also feel thinks like:

  • More tiredness or fatigue than normal. This is even though they haven’t done any physical activity.
  • Loss of appetite (and as a result, weight).
  • A desire to isolate themselves from the people around them.
  • Difficulties getting to sleep (the elderly can sleep less that adults: approximately 4-6 hours)

There are other symptoms that we can see in our parents or grandparents: feelings of inferiority, guilt, or lack of confidence in themselves; thoughts of suicide or strange behaviors (that they never had before).

What to do to help an elderly person with depression 

For the first step, it’s important to remember that aging is a part of life that you can’t avoid.

However, feelings of being ruined shouldn’t be part of this period. Just like other parts of life, it has good and bad things.

The physical or economical limitations are two of the reasons that someone can feel depressed in old age. However, there are several ways to help them work around them:

  • First, they can always choose activities or work that fit their situation.
  • Second, you can remind them that asking for help from those around you 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 can’t demand that the elderly person 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, letting them live their 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 various family members spread throughout the week is a great idea.