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Family Caregiving for Seniors - SageCorner Blog

Elderly Depression

by Deah on Wednesday, June 6, 2018 11:32 AM

Depression seems to be gaining a foothold today, and the elderly are not exempt. Older adults are at risk of a missed diagnosis because their symptoms can be mistaken for normal age related issues. Elderly who require home health care and who have been hospitalized are also often at a higher risk of suffering depression.

I believe that is a lot of my father’s trouble. He has so many health issues and requires some assistance due to his being legally blind. He can often be heard complaining about every little thing anymore, which is so unlike him. I recognized that some grief may be normal but this is ongoing and has him on the irritable side. I’ve read where depression amplifies physical pain. I believe that is what is happening to dad. There was a time when those little aches and pains would never have been known to us. In fact, he probably would never have taken the time to notice either.

We typically experience a lot of grief as older adults due to major life changes. That in turn increases the risk for depression as well as being associated with an increased risk of cardiac disease and death from other illnesses. It reduces a person’s ability to rehabilitate. For those reasons alone it is important to have an evaluation done by a doctor who can use a simple series of standard questions. In the case of chronic illnesses, doctors are encouraged to routinely screen for depression. If you have concerns, it is important to make sure that one is evaluated and treated, even if the depression is mild.

Certain medications are associated with depression. An elderly person who displays depression symptoms, especially after starting a new medication, should speak with their physician about the issue. Everyone should also have a medication review with their doctor or pharmacist once a year.

There are other issues that can contribute to depression in aging adults such as health problems or medical conditions. Illness, disability, chronic conditions, pain, and cognitive decline can all darken one’s outlook. Bereavement over the death of friends or family have an adverse effect, especially the loss of a spouse, sibling, or child. Fear and anxiety are often the culprit. These fears may come from financial problems, health issues, and fear of death or dying. Loneliness and isolation are often associated with depression. As an elderly person, loss of mobility, decreasing social circles, and living alone can all contribute.

Retirement and/ or relocating can also add to a depressed state. Many people who have had fulfilling careers find themselves lost in retirement, especially if they do not have any hobbies to pick up the slack. The unknown of new surroundings when relocating for whatever reason is stressful.

The National Institute of Mental Health list the signs of depression as:

  • Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
  • Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
  • Decreased energy, fatigue, being “slowed down”
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions
  • Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
  • Appetite and/or unintended weight changes
  • Thoughts of death or suicide, suicide attempts
  • Restlessness, irritability
  • Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems without a clear physical cause and/or that do not ease even with treatment

“Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass...It's about learning to dance in the rain.” Vivian Greene


Tips and ideas to help care for a senior loved one at home.


Lori Paterno, M.Ed. Has a Masters Degree in Rehabilitation Counseling From Penn State University.  She has over 20 years professional experience in Human Services, Counseling, and Education.

Lori Paterno, M.Ed. Has a Masters Degree in Rehabilitation Counseling From Penn State University.  She has over 20 years professional experience in Human Services, Counseling, and Education. 
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