Depression affects over 6.5 million Americans who are age 65 and older. Many of these people have already been experiencing symptoms of the illness for several years, while others have only recently experienced its onset. Depression in the elderly is usually associated with the fact that they are being forced to depend on others, or they experiencing a disability that causes several obstacles in their daily living.
Unfortunately, depression in the elderly is an illness that can often go untreated. Too many times, people assume that depression is just a normal part of growing older or a natural reaction to some chronic disease. While it is true that the elderly do face many new challenges as they grow older, depression is not an illness that must simply be tolerated by each senior.
Depression can present itself in many different ways for seniors. Family and friends of the elderly often overlook it because they do not recognize the signs of depression. Other people simply do not know that depression is an illness that can be medically treated by their doctor. Another problem is that depression can easily be mistaken for other illnesses that seniors face, such as dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, heart disease, Parkinson’s disease or thyroid disorders.
In addition, many elderly people feel too ashamed to admit they are struggling with feelings of depression. They are afraid they will be made fun of if they seek medical help for a mood disorder such as depression, all the while blaming themselves for feeling so glum. Other elderly people may worry that they cannot afford to seek help from a medical professional to treat their depression.
Depression is the highest risk factor for suicide among the elderly. They are more likely to reach out and ask for help when it comes to a physical ailment than they are to seek treatment for depression. While they may initially feel shame when it comes to treating a mood disorder, it is imperative that they receive the proper assistance from a medical professional who is familiar with the illness. With such recent medical breakthroughs in the field of mental health, the treatment prognosis for depression looks good. In fact, once an elderly person is diagnosed with the illness, around 80% of them can successfully be treated using medication, psychotherapy, electroconvulsive therapy or some combination of the three.