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Lilacs & Greensleeves: Depression in our Seniors

Depression is not a normal part of growing older!

“Depression is a true and treatable medical condition, not a normal part of aging. However older adults are at an increased risk for experiencing depression. If you are concerned about a loved one, offer to go with him or her to see a health care provider to be diagnosed and treated.

Depression is not just having “the blues” or the emotions we feel when grieving the loss of a loved one. It is a true medical condition that is treatable, like diabetes or hypertension.

~How do I know if it’s depression?

Someone who is depressed has feelings of sadness or anxiety that last for weeks at a time. He or she may also experience–

Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism

Feelings of guilt, worthlessness and/or helplessness

Irritability, restlessness

Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable

Fatigue and decreased energy

Difficulty concentrating, remembering details and making decisions

Insomnia, early–morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping

Overeating or appetite loss

Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts

Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not get better, even with treatment

~How is depression different for other adults?

Older adults are at increased risk. We know that about 80% of older adults have at least one chronic health condition, and

50% have two or more. Depression is more common in people who also have other illnesses (such as heart disease or cancer)

or whose function becomes limited.

Older adults are often misdiagnosed and under-treated. Healthcare providers may mistake an older adult’s symptoms of

depression as just a natural reaction to illness or the life changes that may occur as we age, and therefore not see the

depression as something to be treated. Older adults themselves often share this belief and do not seek help because they don’t

understand that they could feel better with appropriate treatment.

~How many older adults are depressed?

The good news is that the majority of older adults are not depressed. Some estimates of major depression in older people

living in the community range from less than 1% to about 5% but rise to 13.5% in those who require home healthcare and to

11.5% in older hospital patients.”

~How do I find help?

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Written by

Deb is our own Deborah McSherry, experienced nurse and caregiver extraordinaire. Deb has been with Care4You since 2009.