September 15, 2014

Signs of Senior Depression

Seven million Americans over the age of 65 suffer from depression. Would you be able to spot the warning signs in your loved one? Unlike with many other groups, depression in the elderly often goes unrecognized or is mistaken for another condition. The rates of depression for senior living on their own with some level of independence are fairly low (1-5%). Unfortunately the numbers dramatically rise for seniors who are hospitalized (12%), those receiving home care (14%) and those living in nursing homes (29-52%). These statistics from the Harvard Mental Health Study can be scary if you care for an elderly parent.
Symptoms of depression often manifest themselves differently in older people than they do in younger people. Let’s look at some of the sometimes elusive red flags that may indicate a problem in seniors.

  • Look for significant mood changes related to life events such as retirement or loss of independence.
  • Be aware of grief accompanies by insomnia. is usually a symptom of depression. New studies reveal that insomnia is also a risk factor for depression onset and recurrence — particularly in the elderly.
  • Changes in eating habits. Look for weight loss and picking at food.
  • Loss of enjoyment in a hobby.
  • Anxiety or irritability.
  • Social withdrawal and isolation (reluctance to be with friends, engage in activities, or leave home)
  • Loss of self-worth (worries about being a burden, feelings of worthlessness, self-loathing)

If you notice any of these symptoms discuss them with your loved one and their health caregiver.  Like diabetes or arthritis, depression is a chronic disease. Getting well is only the beginning of the challenge—staying well is the real goal.