Depression in Senior Citizens

It is not uncommon for senior citizens to become depressed, and there are distinct ways to tell when someone you know is struggling with this condition. Depression can be triggered by a number of things. It is important when first noticing the signs and symptoms to address the issue immediately. Choosing to ignore the signs of depression can result in conditions that are far more serious, and even life-threatening.

Possible Cause: Illness

An elderly person may become depressed as a result of being chronically ill. Consistently not feeling well physically can directly impact one’s mental state.

Possible Cause: Loneliness

Feeling lonely is a major contributor to depression in senior citizens. Having no one to talk to, being alone more often than not, and thinking that no one cares about them or wants to spend time with them are all effective in promoting a depressed and hopeless state of mind. Seniors facing loneliness start to believe that they are insignificant, unloved, and not worth anyone’s time.

Possible Cause: Boredom

Senior citizens who have lost interest in the world around them will likely become depressed. They are no longer stimulated or inspired by what life has to offer. Self-motivation and enthusiasm are no longer present, and the individual suffers from lack of purpose and a sense of uselessness.

Possible Cause: Fear

Elderly individuals who are close to death may be experiencing fear of the unknown. They are aware that their days are numbered, and they are worried and frightened about what, if anything, will happen to them after they die. This consistent fear of what is to come can easily lead to depression in these individuals.

Signs and Symptoms: A Change in Eating Habits

Many seniors make their depression apparent through loss of appetite. They hardly eat, insisting that they are simply not hungry or they don’t like the dish being served to them.

Signs and Symptoms: Preferring to be Alone

Antisocial behavior in seniors is a sign of depression. Depressed seniors will insist that they want to be alone, and not bothered by anyone or anything. They will avoid gatherings and keep to themselves. Their conversations are limited, and their involvement in outside activities is virtually nonexistent.

Signs and Symptoms: Being Unresponsive

Depressed senior citizens may spend a lot of time staring into space and focusing on their own thoughts.
They are unable, or unwilling, to offer an explanation for the sad look on their face or the tears in their eyes. When asked what is wrong, they have no clear answer.

Signs and Symptoms: Irritability

Crankiness, irritability, and a bitter attitude are common signs of depression in seniors. Unable to handle their own distressing feelings and thoughts, they lash out at undeserving victims who are only trying to help.

Ways to Help: Proper Health Care

A senior citizen who is dealing with an illness should be made as comfortable as possible at all times. Even the slightest of ailments and discomforts should be addressed and taken care of. It is crucial that medications and treatments be administered on schedule.

Ways to Help: Companionship

Even the most reluctant and unresponsive senior needs companionship. Someone talking to them, reading to them, or just spending time at their side is critical in preserving a healthy mental state. Senior citizens should be encouraged to interact with others, particularly those having similar interests and experiences.

Ways to Help: Finding and Rekindling Interests

All seniors have activities and areas of interest that they enjoyed taking part in when they were younger. It may be a hobby, a game that was fun, or a subject that they loved learning about. By the same token, everyone has something that they always wanted to learn or try their hand at, but never got the chance to for whatever reason. Relatives and caretakers should attempt to either rekindle the individual’s former interests, or assist him or her in developing new ones. It is never too late to expand one’s boundaries, and it is both mentally and physically beneficial to do so. Granted, senior citizens are not physically able to do all of the things they used to do when they were young, but this does not mean that they can’t do anything at all.

Ways to Help: Addressing Fear

Senior citizens who are afraid to die should not be left alone with their anxiety and apprehension. They need to be reassured and comforted that they have nothing to fear. This is where religious beliefs play a significant and necessary role. No one should be left feeling overwhelmed by anxiety and dread as they approach death. All seniors should face their dying days knowing that the best is yet to come.

Depression in seniors, if left untreated, can lead to more serious mental conditions, severe physical ailments, and even suicidal tendencies. A suicidal senior citizen may attempt to end his or her own life through self-inflicted bodily harm or starvation. It is unwise to ignore even the slightest indication that something is wrong. Depression is an infliction that should always be taken very seriously.

Editor’s Note:

Depression is a very serious condition that often goes undiagnosed and treated in the elderly. Many of the symptoms of someone slipping into depression are mistaken for a normal part of getting old.

Also, depression has non-environmental causes.  Brain damage, tumors and chemical imbalances can cause depression. Be aware that some prescription medicines can trigger depression.

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