Depression can affect anybody, at any time in their life. Senior citizens who have not dealt with depression in their life are still at risk of developing depression, especially with the onset of serious medical concerns.
Although depression is common among elderly individuals, recognizing depression and treating it is easier said than done. The medical condition can differ in older people than younger individuals and can be hard to recognize. From symptoms to causes and treatment, here are five things to know about geriatric depression.
Depression is not a normal part of aging
Depression is commonly thought of as a normal part of aging, but it is not. Both patients and doctors can hold this mistaken belief, which makes the condition difficult to treat. Depression is a medical condition, just as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease are treatable conditions. It can and should be treated, and recognizing depression is essential for treatment.
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Geriatric depression is usually untreated
Geriatric depression is common among seniors, affecting an estimated 15 percent of Americans over age 65. It is estimated that up to 25 percent of seniors may have symptoms of depression but fall short of a diagnosis. Although the condition is common, treatment is not. Only 10 percent of seniors with depression receive treatment for the condition. This is due to many factors, including unwillingness to seek help and difficulty recognizing the symptoms. Depression can present much differently for elderly people than for young people, which can make it hard to diagnose.
The symptoms of depression are different for seniors
Older adults often experience depression in different ways than children and younger adults. They report more physical and cognitive difficulties, as opposed to the sadness and despair that younger people experience.
“Clinical depression is a major concern for us since it is so common with older adults,” said Mallory Moore, Director of Nursing at Mission Hills Post Acute Care. “Our staff is exceptional at catering to the physical, therapeutic needs of our patients. But we also make sure their emotional needs are addressed. We want all of our staff and patients to feel valued and know that someone cares about them.”
Elderly patients exhibit behavioral symptoms such as irritability, feeling like a burden, fidgeting and inability to care for themselves. They also report aches and pains, insomnia, fatigue, foggy thinking and memory loss.
Health problems can lead to depression
Physical health problems can both lead to depression and be worsened by the condition. About 80 percent of adults have at least one chronic health condition and 50 percent have more than one. Chronic health problems are a risk factor for depression. Hypertension, atrial fibrillation, cancer, dementia, diabetes, insomnia, and other conditions increase the risk for depression. Likewise certain medications that treat serious physical conditions can also increase the risk.
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Treatment is very successful, if followed
In more than 65 percent of patients, depression is treatable. Both prescription medication and psychotherapy are often necessary, and patients benefit the most from continued aggressive treatment. Treatment can be as successful as in younger patients, though it can take longer. Although the treatment helps, it is often abandoned. Up to 70 percent of patients stop taking medication within four weeks.
Depression among senior citizens is very common and should not be overlooked. It is crucial for friends, family members and doctors to recognize the symptoms of geriatric depression and help a person suffering from the condition to get treatment and continue with medication and therapy as long as needed.
This article was originally published by the Daily Herald.