Depression is a clinical condition that is much more than feeling sad. It is a medical condition that affects the brain and makes it difficult for a person to feel joy or happiness. It can make coping with daily life extremely difficult and casts a dark shadow over thoughts and the person’s perception of life.
Taking depression seriously is the most important thing that you can do for a loved one. When you recognize the symptoms of depression you can find appropriate help and treatment. Those who suffer from depression can’t be “cheered up” by a happy dinner or a party. Treating depression requires clinical help from a trained professional.
It is important to note that depression in older adults is not normal. If a senior loved one is exhibiting any of the following signs for more than a few weeks, encourage them to seek help. Here are five ways that you can tell if a loved one is depressed:
Depression symptoms in older adults
- Memory difficulties or personality changes: If this occurs suddenly and without any ongoing symptoms of dementia, then the symptoms may indicate depression. The disease has the ability to make a person apathetic and disinterested. He or she may become angry or agitated when their previous temperament was one of calm.
- Physical aches or pain: If these occur without any obvious physical reason, such as chronic illness or an injury, it may be due to depression. Because the disease affects different regions of the brain it can cause a variety of physical symptoms.
- Fatigue, loss of appetite, sleep problems or loss of interest in sex that is not caused by a medical condition or medication. If you notice that your loved one is losing weight suddenly, looks tired, looks disheveled, complains about not being able to sleep or is sleeping too much, ask about it. Ask what is going on each day and when these symptoms started to appear. Visit him or her at home and look at the environment to determine if the house is being taken care of and food is being eaten.
- Often wanting to stay at home, rather than going out to socialize or doing new things. If this happens suddenly and is out of character, pay attention to it. It is a hallmark sign of depression.
- Suicidal thinking or feelings, especially in older men. If a person articulates a wish to commit suicide, do not dismiss it. Take it very seriously and get immediate help.
No two people suffer the same depression.
Depression can be caused by a variety of factors and each person is different.
- Biology. Some people suffer with depression because of physical changes in their brains.
- Brain chemistry. Chemicals that occur naturally in the brain may change and cause an inability to maintain a stable mood. Scientist believe they may play a significant role in the disease.
- Hormones. If the body’s balance of hormones changes, such as after women give birth, it can cause postpartum depression. This can also occur during menopause, from thyroid conditions or other health conditions that impact the body’s natural hormone levels.
- Family history. People with a family history of depression may be more apt to have it themselves. It is more common when blood relatives suffer with the disease.
There are many cause of depression
Your loved one may be depressed for many reasons. Traumatic events such as the death of a loved one, sudden changes in living circumstances and illness can cause depression. Alcohol and/or drug abuse can be a contributing factor. The onset of a severe illness such as cancer, stroke and heart disease can lead to depression and certain medications can contribute to it as well.
If your loved one exhibits changes in mood, personality or behavior for more than a few weeks, consider that he or she may be depressed. Seniors may not readily admit it and may not seek help on their own. Talk to your loved one gently about what you are observing and encourage them to seek help and support. Offer to go with him or her to talk to someone for the first time so that they don’t feel alone. The Catch-22 of depression is that even if a person knows that he or she needs help, the disease will remove the energy or motivation to seek it.
Learn more about LivHOME’s Behavioral and Mental Health Care program.