Tips for Recognizing Depression in the Elderly


Many recognize October as National Depression Awareness Month, and Fellowship Square feels that depression should be recognized all year round. Diagnosis impacts many seniors, and it's important to recognize the signs so loved ones and caretakers can get the seniors in their lives the help they need. 

While occasional sadness can occur in seniors, depression is not (and should not be) a normal part of aging. However, according to the World Health Organization, depression in seniors is both “underdiagnosed and undertreated in primary care settings.” This is due to the fact that symptoms can often occur with some problems and are therefore overlooked, according to the organization.

For loved ones and caregivers, it’s important to note that the symptoms of depression in the elderly may not show up as tears or lethargy, according to the New York Presbyterian’s Health Matters website. For example, a senior that is depressed may not express feelings of sadness but instead suffer from a lack of energy (which can often be misconstrued as simply a part of aging and, therefore, not properly diagnosed and/or treated).

Symptoms may be subtler, such as losing interest in activities they once enjoyed and shying away from social interaction and physical activity. According to the article, this can then result in loss of function. Another symptom can be a loss of concentration, which can also be misdiagnosed as dementia.

The good news is that once depression in seniors is diagnosed, and a treatment plan is put into motion, cognitive abilities return. Whether medication, therapy or another form of treatment, all can be as effective for seniors as they are in younger people — so age is not a factor in benefiting from treatment.

Fellowship Square encourages caretakers, loved ones, and friends to pay close attention to the elderly people in their lives and take note if they think depression may be an issue. While expressing concern to the senior in question may be met with initial confusion or denial, it’s a conversation worth starting — for the health and well-being of the elderly loved one.  

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