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Depression in Elderly
By
Akshita Gogia

Depression in elders is common but that doesn’t make it a normal part of old age.


Depression in Elderly- A Thorough Analysis

The WHO survey shows that approximately 15% of elderly population suffers from a mental disorder. Out of the total people affected, only 10% receive the treatment for depression. Depression in elderly is often linked to after effects of multiple illnesses and their medicated treatments. In the elderly, depression frequently occurs due to medical problems and often lasts longer than in the younger people.  It is majorly linked to an increased risk of cardiac arrests and death from various mental disorders. Analyzing the stage and the degree of depression is essential to provide the necessary treatments at the right time. Medical institutions consider depression to be a major public health problem as it is connected to increased suicidal cases.


While most old aged adults have good mental health, many are at risk of having mental disorders and other health problems. As the age increases, the risk to agitated depression in the elderly rises. Read on to know about the warning signs of depression in the elderly because timely precautions are anyway better than repeated medication schedule.
 

Symptoms of Depression:


1. Weight Loss & Loss of Appetite

One of the most common symptoms of depression in elderly men and women is the loss of weight and the urge to eat. The early signs of depression begin with loss of appetite, making the person weak causing a decrease in movement and speech. The neglecting personal care leads the person to skipping meals and medicines, and not maintaining the personal hygiene. 


2. Lack of Energy & Disturbed Sleep Patterns

A regular and a sound sleep is one of the primary needs for the mind to function properly. Maintaining a normal sleep cycle is essential to retain the required energy levels in the body. Oversleeping or daytime sleepiness also hampers the health and might be a step towards depression in elderly.


3. Memory Problems & Mental Disorders

Depression and memory loss in elderly is other common symptom leading towards the long term illness. As the age increases, one goes through various mental and physiological changes that can cause glitches in brain functions. It is essential to be understand and acknowledge the difference between young age forgetfulness and old age cognitive problems.

 

4. Loss of Self-Worth & Thoughts of Suicide

Depression in elderly women and men has always been a major public health problem as it leads to self-destructive thoughts and actions, including attempts to suicide, in several cases. Managing and analyzing the need of medications in depression is essential to minimalize the further risks. Loss of self-worth and thoughts of being a burden on the family is one such symptom that can take a person on the path to depression.


Furthermore, it is important to analyze the causes of the signs and symptoms of depression in elderly men and women. As one grows older, the body goes through various changes that can increase the risk of depression. Read on to get an insight to a few frequently known causes of depression in elderly.

 

Causes of Depression:


1. Health Problems

Feeling ill with a sense of disability, cognitive decline, damage to the body due to longing illness or surgeries can lead a person to depression. 


2. Loneliness & Anxiety Disorders

Living alone and struggling with daily tasks can lead the elder to anxiety disorders. Higher levels of anxiety and loneliness can increase the risk of depression and memory loss in the elderly.


3. Fears & Recent Losses

Elders often get surrounded by their fears of death, financial state, or health problems. This also includes fear of losing a loved one. It is important to get the elder’s mind diverted to push them away from being depressed.

 

4. Reduced Sense of Purpose & Will to Live

With the increasing age, one goes through unavoidable changes like retirement, or health problems, which make them lose their identity, social status, self-confidence, and financial security which might increase the risk of depression in such cases.
 

Elders might not be treated for psychiatric illnesses which might increase the risk of developing ongoing effects of the problem. It is, thus, important to understand the consequences of depression in elderly so as to get on the path of treatment.

 

Consequences of Depression


1. Chronic Physical Illness


Studies show that chronic physical illness due to depression in elderly is recorded at 60%. Depression can worsen the physical problems including respiratory diseases, joint pains, and hypertension. 


2. Significant Distress


Prolonging illnesses can leave a person distressed and restless. Mental disorders can often alter the thought process making the body weak, and mind negative. Suicidal thoughts and uncertain behaviors may also follow.


3. Medical Complications

Prevalence of depression in elderly can often lead to medical complications, including unexplained headaches, digestive upsets, pain or similar problems.



4. Disability & Increased Morbidity

Depression brings in several negative thoughts which the person’s condition of being deceased. It makes it difficult for the elderly to perform the daily tasks on their own. One may often record slow movement and fatigue in elderly.


Prevention is always better than the cure. It is extremely important to understand how to prevent depression in elderly. Falling prey to a depressed state of mind can be never ending which makes it way more essential to prevent the future depression that might take over your life. Read on to know the easiest of the ways to prevention of depression in elderly.

 

Prevention of depression


1. Physical Activities

Carrying on a proper exercise routine is important to keep the mind and body active. It decreases the risk of heart diseases, helps in keeping the thinking, learning, and judging abilities sharp and positive.


2. Building Social Bonds

Maintaining the social relationships and having people to talk to is considered to be the natural way to reducing stress levels. It helps in lifting up the mood, relaxing the mind, and giving up a boost up to positivity levels in the body.


3. Following Treatment Plans

It is important to treat depression as early as possible. Following a proper treatment plan, as recommended by the carer/doctor is essential as it fastens the recovery process.


4. Reduce the Time on Social Media

Increased activities on social media can contribute to depression in elderly. It can be addicting, and hence, keeping a track on the usage of social media and limiting it quite necessary for a healthy lifestyle.


Treating depression and finding ways to overcome the illness is important and can be done by encouraging the elders to follow the things they enjoy, to help them socialize with people they love, to motivate them to stay mentally and physically active.


Depression carries with it the ways of treatment basis the degree of severity i.e. non-pharmacologic and pharmacologic treatment of depression in the elderly. The effectiveness of pharmacologic treatment of depression is not affected by age. Analyzing the degree of depression, understanding the choice of right treatment, providing appropriate medications, recording the side effects (if any), and working on prompt treatment will gradually improve the results in elderly. The motive of treatment of depression in elderly should be eradication of symptoms. Improvement can further be recorded by using a clinical tool or by identifying the elder’s activities. The process of treatment could be divided into three phases: an actual treatment towards remission of warning signs, a continuation step to prevent recurrence of the symptoms, and a maintenance phase to prevent future illnesses and disorders.
 

Depression in elderly could also be treated by keeping them engaged in activities they love. Interactive therapies and engagement sessions have proved successful in recording an everlasting improvement in early stages of depression.


Living in depressed state for life can be difficult, but treating the depressed self can help improve the quality of life. Check out the tips to release off the stress and push away the depression.


1. Drugs and Alcohol Are a Big No

Consuming alcohol and drugs can worsen your mental state. These can move you to next stage of depression adding in the anxiety disorders.


2. Exercise and Maintain a Workout Routine

Being physically active and fit; following a daily exercise routine increases the production of endorphins in the body which can help lift up the mood, making you feel happy.

 

Treatment of Depression 


Treating depression is as important as preventing it. One cannot ignore the treatment as it only gets worse with passage of time. One can try the natural methods to treating depression in elderly. Consuming vitamins are important as it helps in keeping the functioning of the body normal. Many herbs, vitamins and supplements claim to help prevent and ease symptoms of depression and memory loss in elderly. Vitamin B-12 and B-6 are important for a good brain health. The lower the vitamin levels, increased are the risks of developing depression. Vitamin D helps in proper functioning of brain, heart, and bone health. Thus, it is always suggested to take enough sunshine on a daily basis. 


Depression in elderly can be a difficult issue to deal with. It is important to understand all the tangents of depression to offer timely care. Analyzing the symptoms of depression, and keeping a track on further effects is important to have a successful cure to the problem. 

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