Depression in Old Age
Did you that multiple studies have found that many people get depressed after the age of 65? Depression affects around 22% of men and 28% of women aged 65 years and over, yet it is estimated that 85% of older people with depression receive no help at all from the NHS. Source: Mental Health Foundation
People are living longer lives, which is positive news, but we need to be aware of mental health and depression in old age, as well as physical health.
Causes of depression in old age
There are a handful of causes of depression in old age these include:
- Loneliness - living alone or having limited social interactions can be damaging to someone's mental health. Read our article, 'Helping The Lonely At Christmas'
- Physical Health - health issues such as chronic illness, disability, cognitive decline, or even post surgery injury can contribute towards depression in old age.
- Bereavement - losing a partner, loved one, family member or a pet can be very distressing and can be a cause of depression in old age.
- Feeling useless - due to retirement or physical limitations, elderly loved ones may feel they no longer have a purpose in life.
- Discrimination - activities and events not catering for older people and being excluded from invitations
- Relationships - losing touch with loved ones, losing friends and children and grandparents moving away can have a huge impact on an elderly person's mental health
- Poverty - the worries of finances and how to pay for heating bills, food and so forth on a pension can be another factor of causing depression.
7 Signs of depression in old age
- Visible Health Issues - you may notice weight loss from a loss of appetite, poor sleep quality, health issues may seem more difficult to deal with, even if your health hasn't actually drastically changed.
- Memory problems - someone with depression may have difficulty concentrating, their language may be slower and they may be worried about their memory problems. The difference between these symptoms and dementia can be that those with dementia mentally decline slowly and may struggle with their short term memory.
- Loneliness - feeling more lonely than usual, even if their social group and situation hasn't changed, can be a sign of depression. Also shutting themselves away and not interacting when invitations are sent to socialise.
- Loss of interest - those with depression can become uninterested in day to day tasks to look after themselves, such as; neglecting personal hygiene, skipping meals or not taking medications. They may also lose interest in their hobbies and social events.
- Fatigue - lack of energy and motivation to do things are common when suffering with depression. Even if you are able to sleep you may always feel tired and lethargic.
- Loss of self worth - often those with depression can feel a burden to their family. It can be difficult to notice the symptoms of depression as they hide their problems so as not to be a burden to you. They may feel unable to do anything for themselves anymore and feel guilty for this, even if you are happy to help.
- Negative thinking - any signs of suicidal thoughts should be treated seriously. Contact their doctor if you have any concerns about this.
How to help someone with depression
If you are you worried about a loved one suffering from depression in old age then there are ways that you can help.
- Take symptoms seriously - signs of depression can sometimes be confused with grief or sadness. But they should be taken seriously, such as not eating or sleeping are symptoms of depression that need to be treated.
- Talk to them - sometimes the best help you can offer is to simply listen to how they feel. Understand that they may feel lonely, useless and think very little of themselves. Maybe you can ring them more often and visit more occasionally.
- Encourage social events - although they may suffer from loneliness, many depressed older people tend to keep to themselves and avoid social interaction. You may even want to consider getting them a pet if they are able to look after one, but obviously talk it through with them first.
- Enable their independence - helping your loved one with all of their tasks can seem helpful, but it may make them feel more unable to do anything for themselves. Instead you could help them with their chores and do tasks together.
- Medical help - encourage your loved one to visit the doctor to explain their symptoms, they may find writing them down beforehand can help remember everything. After the appointment ensure they use the doctor's advice and any medications they may have been prescribed.