Depression is not always obvious in the elderly for many possible reasons. Not only does depression tend to remain longer in the elderly, it is also more likely to lead to suicide. In fact the suicide rate is twice that in the 80 to 85 year age gap than it is in the general population. Yet depression is not very often detected by close family and friends. Understanding the symptoms depression and identifying it early in seniors can ensure quick treatment. It can even prolong the lifespan of the elderly.
The common symptoms of depression are not easy to spot in the elderly who tend to have more health problems which can present with the same symptoms. Just the age-related changes in the body without any disease can sometimes be missed from the actual symptoms of depression. This includes :
Age brings about many of these symptoms as a person loses their spouse and older friends and family members, stop working and depending on others like their children. However, most people believe that it is normal for seniors to experience these symptoms. While it is to some degree, it needs to be clearly differentiated from depression.
There are some less common symptoms of depression that can be more easily missed since many occur with age anyway. This includes :
There is a misconception that depression is a normal part of aging. Therefore the symptoms of depression are often ignored even is obvious to the senior themselves, their partners, family and friends. It is important to remember that depression is a major public health issue in seniors that requires medical treatment.
Another reason that these symptoms are also missed or ignored is that it occurs with many chronic disease that are more likely in the elderly. For example, diabetes mellitus causes tiredness, weight loss and appetite changes. Parkinson’s disease can cause slowness of movement and speech. Alzheimer’s disease can affect the memory. Therefore differentiating from the disease symptoms and depression symptoms is understandably difficult and may even be missed by the family doctor.
Furthermore the elderly are more likely to be using chronic medication. The side effects of these drugs may cause symptoms that closely resemble depression. Therefore depression symptoms can be mistaken as side effects. In the elderly with severe chronic diseases and where the treatment options are limited, these symptoms are just ignored and the senior is expected to live with it.
Lastly there is the question of whether grief and fears seen in the elderly is a part of depression. Sometimes these emotions may exist and even consume a person for a period of time without it being depression as such. It is therefore important to consider some of the causes of depression as well when trying to determine if a senior is depressed or not.