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Balance Retirement & Aged Care Specialists

Watching For Symptoms Of Depression

Posted on: June 12th, 2014 by Eric Hiam in Health Issues And Aged Care

From the age of 65, most people will experience episodes of depression. This statistic rises even more when someone goes into care because dependency and disability can cause great emotional suffering in which depression is closely associated.

What causes depression in older people?

Factors such as psychological, biological, environmental and genetics are likely contributors to depression. Along with circumstance, certain brain chemical imbalances are also thought to be involved in major depression.

While genetic vulnerability can trigger depression, depression can also be the result of prescribed medications to older people for treatment of other needs.

Why does depression in the older population often go untreated?

There are two reasons why depression goes untreated in older generations.

1. Many people believe that a normal part of ageing and loss is depression and therefore it goes untreated. In older patients, depression can also be mistaken for symptoms of Dementia, Alzheimer’s Disease, Arthritis, Cancer, Heart disease, Parkinson’s, Strokes and Thyroid disorders.

2. Many elderly people are worried about being humiliated because they see depression as a character flaw, and they often blame themselves or don’t see it as an illness and don’t ask for help, whilst others are worried about the cost of the medication that helps to control depression.

What are the consequences of untreated depression in older people?

By depression not being recognized or treated, fatal consequences include both suicide and non-suicide mortality. In fact depression is the highest risk factor for death in the elderly population.

Are symptoms of depression different in older persons than in younger persons?

Symptoms in older persons may differ somewhat from symptoms in other age brackets. Depression in older persons is at times characterized by memory problems, confusion, social withdrawal, loss of appetite, weight loss, delusions, hallucinations etc.

Elderly people do not acknowledge or show severe feelings of sadness, but general clues to depression can be seen through persistent complaints, help-seeking, slow mannerisms and demanding behavior.

How can clinical depression be distinguished from normal sadness and grief?

Sadness and grief are normal reactions to life and of course the huge change that comes with your loved one going into care but on the contrary, clinical depression doesn’t go away by itself and professional treatment is needed. When depression is not resolved, the body can be affected by the suppressing of the immune system.

Are some older persons at highest risk for depression?

In women, higher rates of depression are seen through increased stress from maintaining relationships, caring for their children or perhaps ill loved ones like parents. You also need to make sure when admitting your loved one into care that you are looking after yourself. It is a highly emotional journey for the whole family.

People who have undergone medical procedures, or treatments from such events like heart attacks, strokes, hip fractures or macular degenerations should be assessed for prolonged recovery as depression is often associated with these.

How is depression in older people diagnosed?       

Depressive symptoms may be caused by another medical illness and through a simple medication change, reducing of the symptom intensity can be seen. Speaking with family members of friends may help rule out a diagnosis conducted by a clinical and psychiatric interview.

Can depression in older persons be treated?

For the elderly, medications may assist in the treatment of depression as they are combined with psychotherapy or cognitive behavioral therapy which improves their effectiveness. Due to numerous elderly people living alone, churches or bridge friends are encouraged as they may experience inadequate support systems or no contact with care physicians and therefore psychological treatment proves an essential form care of older people.

Depression is a chronic disease and staying well is the real goal. Treatment from six months to one year is recommended for first depression episodes, compared to two years remission for people who have experience two or three episodes of depression. Treatment may be life-long with mre than three recurrences of depression.

It is important when moving your loved one into aged care that you watch for any signs of depression as their life dramatically alters. Balance Aged Care Specialists recommends staying in regular touch with your loved one and talking through how they are feeling about the transition into aged care.