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Depression in the Elderly

I’m continuing with the mental health theme for this blog because depression is such an important issue in older adults. Here are some statistics:

  •  Up to 20% of older adults  and up to 37% of nursing home residents suffer from depression.

  •  Although older Americans make up 13% of the population they account for 20% of the people who commit suicide

  •  75% of older adults who commit suicide have seen their doctor in the past month.

 Source: American Psychological Association

Since I have discussed dementia in a recent blog I will mention the difference between dementia and depression. Especially since people may be wrongly diagnosed as having dementia when it’s actually depression. The symptoms are very similar: forgetfulness, disorientation, or poor attention span. A person with depression is aware they have memory loss. Someone with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia will try to conceal or not even realize they have it

Many people with depression do not make an attempt for any kind of support. A lot of older adults still feel like mental illness is something that you should hide or be ashamed of. If a person already has health conditions like heart disease, diabetes and stroke depression can make these worse. This is mostly because the depressed person doesn’t care for themselves as well.

 Signs of possible depression in someone you care about:

  • Constant sadness

  • Recurring thoughts or comments about self-harm or suicide

  • Increase or decrease in appetite

  • Withdrawal from previously enjoyed activities

  • Sleep problems such as not being able to sleep or sleeping too much

  • Heavy use of alcohol

Source: Centers for Disease Control and National Institute of Mental Health

I know from personal experience it’s difficult to ask someone you care about if they are thinking of harming themselves or even killing themselves. However, we definitely need to find the courage to inquire what might be really going on. The suicide rates are particularly high among older adults, especially men.

If you are caring for a depressed loved one, really listen and pay attention to remarks they may make about self-harm or ending their lives. That may be as close as they get to asking for help. Help means getting them to a healthcare professional. They may need treatment immediately. If there are guns in the home, remove them immediately.  The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 can be a lifeline in more ways than one. All calls are confidential

 Source: AARP

Yet again, having someone like one of the caregivers from Catalina In-Home Services can be an enormous assistance in assessing a possible depression. Our caregivers are trained to contact one of the registered nurses with any mood or emotional changes in their client’s condition. Our nurses will then help assess if further medical treatment is necessary.