Sadly geriatric depression is a very common condition amongst the elderly. Depression is usually the response as the elderly encounter several changes in their lives and only a small percentage get the necessary help they need. Depression in the elderly is often overlooked because some people assume that senior citizens have concrete reason to feel depressed or that depression is just a part of the aging process. This has made many older people reluctant to talk about their feelings because most physicians usually ignore depression in older patients; instead they concentrate on physical complaints.
Most senior citizens face significant life changes and stress factors that put them at risk of depression. Older adults that have a personal or family history of depression, substance abuse history or failing health are at the highest risk.
The causes of risk factors that lead to geriatric depression include:
a) Health challenges:
- Disability and illness
- cognitive decline
- Damage to the body caused by disease or surgical procedure(s)
- Chronic or severe pains
b) Bereavement: The death of family members, pets, friends and the devastating effect of losing a spouse or partner.
c) Loneliness and Isolation :
- Living all alone
- Dwindling circle of friends due to relocation, deaths, decreased mobility caused by illness or loss of driving privileges.
- Children and grandchildren who live far away.
d) Medications: Studies have shown that many prescription drugs can trigger geriatric depression.
e) Loss or reduced sense of purpose: Older people feel a sense of purposelessness due to retirement from work or physical limitations on favourite activities.
f) Fears : The fear of death and dying, health challenges or worry over financial issues
The signs and symptoms of geriatric depression can be recognized by the following depression red flags:
„X Loss of weight due to loss of appetite
„X Losing interest in hobbies or other pleasurable activities that used to be a favorite
„X Sleep disturbances – having trouble falling asleep, oversleeping or daytime sleepiness
„X Social withdrawal and isolation – refusing to be with friends, leave home or engage in fun activities.
„X Suicidal thoughts or attempts
„X Feelings of loss of self-worth – Feelings of worthlessness, self-hatred, fear about being a burden.
„X Memory loss
„X Alcohol and drug use increases
„X Lack of concentration
„X Headaches, backaches or other type of pains that cannot be linked to aging or other known health issues.
Geriatric depression in older adults who deny that they are feeling sad or depressed may have “major” depression and the symptoms of this depression are:
„X The loss of feeling of happiness
„X Feelings of hopelessness
„X Memory issues
„X Slowed movement
„X Skipping meals, forgetting to take medications and refusing to see to personal hygiene (looking unkempt)
If depression is left untreated, it will prevent the elderly from enjoying their lives to the fullest and it also takes a very heavy toll on their health. If the symptoms of depression are spotted on time, it can be treated and the senior citizens can live and remain happy and vibrant throughout their golden years.