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Depression in The Elderly

By Estee Bienstock, R.N.

(Page 1 of 4)
 

Depression affects more than 20 percent of our elderly population, aged 65 and older (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2009). For many, depression presents initially late in life. Depression in older persons is closely associated with illness or injury and can cause great suffering for the individual and the family.

Feeling down from time to time, due to life struggles, is normal. Depression, on the other hand, is a REAL medical condition in which a person has feelings of sadness, loss of motivation, and lack of self-confidence. The feelings of hopelessness and helplessness prevent one from enjoying everyday life and affects overall daily functioning. There is a loss of interest, even in one’s family, friends, work or social activities. Depression is often described as “living in a black hole.” Getting through the day can be overwhelming.

There are many reasons why our treasured elderly family members experience depression. These include:

  • Loss of a close family member (spouse) or friend

  • Chronic pain or illness

  • Difficulty with mobilization

  • Frustration with memory loss

  • Difficulty adapting to life changes (i.e., moving residence)

  • Reaction to an illness

  • Side effects of medication

Depression varies from person to person and the symptoms are varied. Women have a greater risk of depression than men. Women tend to have feelings of guilt. Deprivation of sleep is frequently a problem. Women tend to either lose weight or gain weight. When men suffer from depression, they often see it as a sign of weakness. They tend to be more aggressive, angry, violent and reckless. Men have a higher suicide rate. (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2009)

Other symptoms people may have when suffering from depression include:

  • Loss of interest in activities of daily living such as social interactions, work, family gatherings

  • Pessimism

  • Disturbed sleep patterns

  • Irritability, agitation, and restlessness; loss of energy, feelings of fatigue

  • Self loathing, feelings of worthlessness; frequent crying

  • Decreased concentration, difficulty focusing, unable to make decisions,
    memory loss

  • Headaches, gastrointestinal disturbances, muscle aches, and weakness

  • Abnormal thoughts about death
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