At S.A.F.E., our primary goal is to ensure seniors are safe in their homes so they can continue to enjoy a quality life as they age in place. However, we are very aware that physical safety is just one component of a good life. Depression can be an issue at any age, but it’s a common problem among older adults, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, and it’s not a normal part of aging.
Depression may be overlooked as a diagnosis for some seniors because sadness is not their main symptom. They may have other, less obvious symptoms or they may not be willing to talk about their feelings, so doctors may be less likely to recognize they have depression.
What are the signs and symptoms of depression?
Different people have different symptoms, but some indicators of depression are:
- Feeling sad or “empty”
- Feeling hopeless, irritable, anxious or guilty
- Losing interest in favorite activities
- Feeling very tired
- Not being able to concentrate or remember details
- Not being able to sleep, or sleeping too much
- Overeating, or not wanting to eat at all
- Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
- Aches or pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems
Obviously, these symptoms don’t always indicate someone has depression, since we all might have some of them now and then. However, if you notice prolonged episodes occurring for a loved one, it may be time to take action. It’s important to remember that someone with depression cannot simply “snap out of it.”
How is depression treated?
The first step to getting appropriate treatment is to visit a doctor. Because certain medications or conditions can cause symptoms similar to depression, a doctor can rule out these factors by doing a complete physical exam, interview and lab tests.
If those factors are ruled out, your loved one may be referred to a mental health professional, such as a psychologist, counselor, social worker, or psychiatrist. This person will ask about symptom history, such as when they started, how long they have lasted, their severity, whether they have occurred before, and if so, whether they were treated and how. If the diagnosis is depression, the next step is to choose the most appropriate treatment.
Treatment choices differ for each person, so there may be some trial and error involved before finding one that works. Medication and psychotherapy are the two most common treatments.
How can you help a loved one who’s depressed?
If you believe a loved one may be suffering from depression, your initial step should be seeking the counsel of a doctor or mental health professional. In addition, there are plenty of ways you can be of help:
- Offer support, understanding, patience and encouragement.
- Talk to your loved one, and listen carefully to what they say.
- Never ignore comments about suicide, and report them to your loved one’s therapist or doctor.
- Invite your loved one out for walks, outings and other activities.
- Remind your loved one that with time and treatment, the depression will lift.
Please contact us at S.A.F.E. if you need a resource for helping to diagnose and treat your loved one’s depression. We’re here to help.