Depression among the elderly often passes unnoticed. Relatives may simply assume that the feelings of sadness that they note in their older family members are common reactions to the difficulties of aging.
If you are a caregiver, how can you spot the difference between serious depression and a simple case of the blues? Here are a few signs that your loved one may be suffering from depression.
- Prolonged or extreme sadness or feelings of worthlessness. While it is normal for most of us to have a bad day every now and again, persistent feelings of melancholy, lasting for more than two weeks, may be a symptom of depression.
- Unexplained weight gain or loss. While many people lose or gain weight naturally over time as they age, sudden changes in weight can be indicative of more serious problems. Caregivers should also watch for unexplained changes in appetite.
- Sleeping either too much or too little. Seniors who suffer from depression will often experience one extreme or the other.
- Withdrawal. Seniors who experience depression often withdraw from their family members and friends. They may also express reluctance to participate in social activities, or even to leave the house.
- Irritability. While occasional bouts of grumpiness are not perhaps in themselves cause for concern, if those moods become chronic or are accompanied by other symptoms of depression, caregivers should take notice.
- Loss of interest in daily activities. Seniors suffering from depression may suddenly lose interest in activities that they formerly enjoyed or even anticipated eagerly.
- Unusual lack of personal hygiene. Elderly individuals experiencing feelings of depression may begin bathing less frequently, and may pay little attention to their personal appearance, allowing themselves to look unkempt.
- Anxiety and forgetfulness. While these problems are common among many seniors, if accompanied by other symptoms discussed here they can be signs of depression as well. Seniors suffering from depression may worry more than normal, even obsessively, about health, financial problems, and other issues.
Caregivers who notice these symptoms in their loved ones should not ignore such warning signs – doing so can have serious consequences. However, talking about the problem may not initially be easy. Many elderly individuals believe that there is a stigma attached to depression, and that by admitting that they have such issues they are confessing to something highly embarrassing or even shameful. Family members should strive to help their loved ones move past such feelings and seek professional help.
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