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Tips for Helping the Elderly Who May Be Depressed


Are you concerned about an older friend or family member who you think may be depressed? Although depression often occurs in adults over 65, that doesn’t mean that we should accept it as a normal part of aging. Depression is a treatable condition at any age. Since seniors have the highest rates of suicide of any age group, depression should be taken seriously. Depression can also worsen many other health conditions, or make it harder to manage health conditions like diabetes.

Why Depression is Under Diagnosed in Seniors

There’s a tendency for friends, family, and doctors to overlook the symptoms of depression in older adults. This is partly because there are so many other contributing factors (such as declining health or the death of a friend) that depression on its own isn’t recognized. One key difference between grief and depression is that a person who’s grieving will still enjoy occasional feelings of happiness or enjoyment. There will be extreme lows and crying episodes, but there will also be times that the person can enjoy things about life. A person with depression will have a constant low feeling that doesn’t go away. If you are concerned that grief could be turning to depression in your friend or family member, talk to a doctor. Another obstacle to recognizing depression in seniors is that people in this age group may not report feeling sad, which is usually one of the main signs of major depressive disorder. Depressed seniors often feel irritable or anxious, and if they do feel sad they may be disinclined to talk about their feelings. Seniors are the most likely to hide depression from family members, since they may worry that feeling depressed could lead to a care center or the loss of their independence.

Signs of Depression in Seniors

  • Decline in personal appearance. One of the first signs of depression in older adults is that they stop taking care of their appearance. If your friend or loved one stops showering, doing their hair, shaving, or wearing makeup, it could be a sign that they’re depressed.
  • Being unusually sleepy. Older people with depression are often much more tired than usual. They may not sleep well at night, or they may not want to get out of bed in the morning. Overall, a depressed person will have much lower energy levels than normal.
  • Withdrawing from social situations. f your friend usually makes it to bingo night, or meets you for lunch every Tuesday, but stops showing up, it could be a sign of depression. Helping your friend or loved one return to social gatherings (as long as they’re social functions they enjoy, whether that’s a ballgame or a book club meeting) can be helpful in dealing with minor forms of depression.
  • Crankiness and moodiness.If your friend or loved one is always a bit cantankerous, then a few weeks of irritability may be nothing notable. But if they are usually fairly content but they’re suddenly irritable and annoyed with everything, it could be a sign of depression.
  • Physical pain. Depression makes other types of pain more intense, so if a person is depressed then other symptoms and even chronic pain may become worse. Headaches, back pain, an aching shoulder—these could be symptoms of depression.
  • Lack of interest in favorite hobbies. A common symptom among depressed individuals of all ages is a lack of sustained interest in participating in favorite hobbies and activities. If your father suddenly stopped golfing and it’s been a regular weekly thing for years, and it isn’t being replaced with another activity, this could be a sign of depression.

Health problems, retirement, the death of friends and loved ones, and decreased independence can all trigger depression in seniors. There are many types of therapies that doctors and psychiatrists at Dallas Behavioral utilize to help bring about wellness in patients. Friends and family can help provide much-needed connection and purpose in life that seniors need. If you are helping a friend or family member through depression, talk to his or her doctor, invite your friend to get together, and lend a listening ear. If you’d like to help your family take the next steps to greater health and well being, contact Dallas Behavioralat 855-982-0897 to begin the road to recovery.