According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, more than 6.5 million Americans aged 65 or older are affected by depression.
While some adults with depression may have been managing the disease for a number of years, others experience depression for the first time later in life.
Symptoms of depression in people older than age 65 include:
- Social withdrawal
- Loss of appetite
- Loss of interest in activities
- Feelings of guilt and/or worthlessness
- Feelings of hopelessness
Unlike typical feelings of sadness, loneliness or grief, depression does not go away on its own and may last for months or years at a time if untreated.
No one knows exactly what causes depression, but some circumstances or diseases can increase the risk of depression. In the elderly, hormonal changes can be a factor, as can physical illnesses such as dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, Parkinson’s disease and certain thyroid disorders. Major life changes—such as retirement, the loss of a loved one or the diagnosis of a major disease—may also trigger depression.
Because depression can mimic symptoms of other diseases, early signs may be misdiagnosed. Before diagnosis and treatment of depression, physical tests should be conducted to rule out other illnesses.
Depression can also be mistakenly considered a normal part of aging, both by doctors and by senior adults. Some seniors may also see depression as a character flaw and feel uncomfortable asking for help. While all people experience life changes that can elicit grief or sadness, clinical depression is not something that should just be accepted as a part of getting older. Treatment options such as psychotherapy and antidepressants can help improve symptoms and quality of life for those suffering with depression at any age.
The MetroSouth Senior Behavioral Health Unit is an acute inpatient program to treat persons 55 years or older who are suffering from symptoms such as:
- Overt prolonged sadness,
- Excessive anxiety,
- Sudden onset of disorientation and confusion,
Thoughts, behaviors, or plans of hurting themselves or others including poor judgment in day-to-day living.
For a confidential assessment, or more information, call (708) 824-4774.
Editor’s Note: This article was submitted by MetroSouth Medical Center.