Signs of Depression in Seniors

Signs of depression in the elderly are often the same signs that correlate with depression at any age.  Unfortunately, they can be hard to recognize as signs of depression for a variety of reasons, one being that many of these symptoms can be attributed to the natural processes of aging.  This leads to many suffering in silence and not receiving the help that would brighten their golden years.

Some senior depression indicators are:

  • Loss of interest in activities they enjoy, less interest in socializing, or general apathy.
  • A decline in self-care. This can manifest as skipping medication, not eating well, or neglecting hygiene.
  • Feelings of helplessness, despair, impending death, or feeling worthless.
  • Aggravated aches, pains, fatigue.

Any of these could stem from a different underlying cause, with depression being both a cause and a symptom.

Some Causes of Depression in the Elderly

Some people develop depression as they age and some have lived with it for years.  Life changes associated with aging can deal lasting damage to the human psyche.  Some triggering factors for senior depression are:

  • Elderly people are often physically isolated as well as socially isolated.
  • Declining health or existing illness. Spending significant amounts of time dealing with poor physical health can take a toll on mental health.
  • Retirement can be a wonderful time of life, but many find that they become restless or unhappy.  This contributes to feelings of isolation, boredom, and lack of self-worth.
  • Death and loss. Losing friends and loved ones causes grief, stress, and may contribute to fears of one’s own death.
  • Medications like beta-blockers, tranquilizers, ulcer medicines, and calcium-channel blockers can have side effects including depression.

Treatments for Senior Depression

An important step toward better mental health for the elderly is an evaluation by a general physician.  Mental and physical problems often overlap and worsen each other.  A good example is vascular depression.  Vascular depression stems from ischemia, or prolonged impeded blood flow to organs including the brain.  The brain is just another part of the body, and a general physician can spot physical problems, identify areas to explore further, and make referrals to specialists.

After a physical examination, a psychological evaluation is a wise choice when investigating causes and treatments for elder depression.  Behavioral changes, talk therapy, medication, and other treatments may be recommended.

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) is an option worth considering for depression in seniors.  Experimentation is ongoing and producing promising results in improving cognitive function and reducing neuropathic pain.  TMS is FDA-approved and maintains a record of safety and negligible side effects.