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Depression in Seniors

What is depression?

Depression is more than sadness and a bad mood. It's more than a feeling of grief after losing someone you love. It doesn't go away after taking a long walk, or sharing a cup of coffee with a friend.

Depression is a very personal illness that affects the entire body. It also affects friendships, marriages, and basic day-to-day living. Depression that has not been diagnosed or treated causes needless suffering for loved ones and for the person with depression. But it is difficult to diagnose depression in seniors because other life changes are occurring which can hide real depression. Medical conditions, grief, and dementia can all mask the signs of depression.

Why do people suffer late-life depression?

Depression does not have to go hand-in-hand with growing older. It isn't "normal" to feel depressed all the time; and most seniors are satisfied with their lives. However, depression is a condition that affects many older people. There are a number of reasons that this illness occurs. Factors that may lead to depression include the loss of a spouse or loved one, chronic illness, frustration with not being able to get around and memory loss, and difficulty adapting to a new home. The use of certain medications may also lead to depression.

What are the warning signs of depression in seniors?

The warning signs of depression in seniors are similar to those seen in anyone else suffering from depression. They include the following:

  • Depressed or irritable mood
  • Worries about memory loss
  • Thoughts about suicide
  • Plans to commit or an attempt at suicide
  • Loss of interest in daily activities
  • Change in appetite
  • Change in weight
  • Difficulty sleeping

Help is available

Sometimes depression can be eased with social activities to help with loneliness or boredom. These activities can include group outings, volunteer work, or visits from loved ones. Treatment of medical conditions or taking medications that may be less likely to contribute to depression may ease some symptoms of depression. Antidepressant drug therapy may also help if other steps taken do not work.

If you or someone you know is depressed help is available through our Coordinated Behavioral Health Management department (CBHM). CBHM services are confidential and help is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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