Seniors and Depression

March 2018

In older people, certain life changes can increase the risk for depression:

  • A move from home, such as to a retirement facility
  • Chronic illness/pain
  • Children moving away
  • Spouse or close friends passing away
  • Loss of independence

Depression can also be related to a physical illness, such as:

  • Thyroid disorders
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Heart disease
  • Cancer
  • Stroke
  • Dementia

The first steps for treatment:

  • Treat illnesses that may cause symptoms
  • Stop taking medications that increase symptoms (with your doctor’s OK)
  • Avoid alcohol/sleep aids

If this doesn’t help, medications to treat depression and talk therapy may help. It’s also helpful to:

  • Exercise regularly, with doctor approval
  • Surround yourself with positive people and fun activities
  • Learn good sleep habits
  • Watch for early signs of depression
  • Drink less alcohol and avoiding illegal drugs
  • Discuss your feelings with someone you trust
  • Take medications correctly and discuss side effects with your doctor

If you experience symptoms of depression, talk with your doctor.

Depression may be undiagnosed or misdiagnosed in some older adults because sadness is not their main symptom. They may have other, less-obvious symptoms of depression or they may not be willing to talk about their feelings. It is important to know the signs and seek help if you are concerned.

If you have been experiencing several of the following symptoms for at least two weeks, you may be suffering from depression:

  • Persistent sad, anxious or “empty” mood
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
  • Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
  • Decreased energy, fatigue, feeling “slowed down”
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
  • Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, oversleeping
  • Appetite and/or unintended weight changes
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, suicide attempts
  • Restlessness, irritability
  • Aches or pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems without a clear physical cause and/or that do not ease even with treatment

Source: National Institutes of Health

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