Depression is a common problem in the elderly that isrecently getting more attention from healthcare professionals
Illness, diminished physical mobility and decreasing quality of life can take an emotional toll on older people
that sometimes makes them feel that life isn’t worth living. ‘lhe loss of spouse and friends can also contribute to
feelings of loneliness and hopelessness that are hard to shake. Research shows that depression can also worsen
medical conditions and contribute to increased dementia. Finding the right solutionsfor older people can help to
increase their well-being and their overall health.
Problems of Diagnosing Depression
Diagnosing depression in the elderly can be difficult for a
number of reasons:
Many older people grew up in an age in which depression and other mental health problems were not well understood
or admitted. Depression can cause many of the MME symptoms as dementia, such as memory problems, sluggish speech,
slow movements and lack of motivation. Dementia can also complicate communication with the elder about their
thoughts and emotions. Side effects from medications used to treat medical conditions can cause depression.
Loss of a spouse or loved can cause grief, which can have similar symptoms, yet isvery different to depression.
Some illnesses, such as Parkinson’s disease, cancer, heart disease, diabetes and vitamin deficiencies can cause
depression. Good management ofthe health problem can often relieve the depression.
- Symptoms of Depression in the Elderly
- The symptoms of depression can be subtle or very
- Aches and pains that do not correspond with any illness
or injury Persistent feelings of helplessness or hopelessness
- Memory problems
- Chronic anxiety and worrying
- Slowed speech or movements
- Neglect of personal grooming, eating or taking
- Loss of interest in hobbies or socializing
- Increased use of alcohol
- Medications that Can Help
Antidepressants can be as effective in older people as they are in younger patients However, a lower dose may be
necesmry, and special care should be given to ensure there are no interactions with other drugs the individual may
be taking. Serotonin reuptake inhibitors, such as citralopram, escitalopram and sertraline have good safety records
for use by the elderly. Other antidepressants such as buproprion, mirlazapine, moclobemide and venlafaxine have all
been found to be safe. However, these medications may take longer to work. Unpleasant side effects that may occur
can be eliminated by trying anothertype of medication.
If antidepressant drugs are not medically appropriate for the elderly individual, a number of other options can
help to relieve symptoms and allow him or her to enjoy life more:
- Omega-3 fatty acids can help to relieve depression or
boost the effects of antidepresgints.
- St. John’s wort is an herbal supplement that has been found to relieve the symptoms of mild depression.
- SAMe is another type of supplement used to treat symptoms of depression.
- Psychological counseling or therapy may be needed for some elders with depression.
- Support groups can help to express feelings and offer encouragement to elders with depression.
- Recognizing depression in older people can be a critical factor in helping these individuals to feel better both
emotionally and physically.