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Especially for caregivers: Recognizing depression in older adults

Especially for caregivers: Recognizing depression in older adults
Nov 23 2022

As a caregiver, you have become adept at tending to your loved one’s physical care needs. Navigating his mood swings may be more unfamiliar territory: How do you know if the loved one in your care has a mood disorder like depression?

Depression is more common in older people than you might think. In fact, more than two million Americans age 65 and older suffer from some form of depression. It’s also important to recognize that seniors are at risk for suicide.

Making matters more complicated, older adults may be less likely to talk about their feelings of depression, or to seek mental health treatment. To help ensure your loved one gets the support he needs, it helps to know the signs. While everyone’s experience of depression and suicidal thoughts is different, some common signs and symptoms include:

• Feelings of hopelessness, pessimism, guilt, worthlessness and/or helplessness.

• Irritability and/or restlessness.

• Loss of interest in once enjoyable activities or hobbies.

• Fatigue and decreased energy.

• Difficulty concentrating, remembering details and making decisions.

• Insomnia, early–morning wakefulness or excessive sleeping.

• Overeating or appetite loss.

• Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems that do not get better, even with treatment.

• Cutting back on social interaction, self-care and grooming.

• Breaking medical regimens such as diets and prescriptions.

• Experiencing or expecting a significant personal loss.

• Putting affairs in order or changing wills.

• Stock-piling medication.

Depression is a serious health concern, but it can be effectively treated and there is hope. Most older adults see an improvement in their symptoms when treated with medication, psychotherapy or a combination of both.

If you’re concerned about a loved one who may be depressed, offer to go with him to see his health care provider. Huntington Health’s Della Martin Center (DMC) also provides a wide range of comprehensive and compassionate mental health care services and referrals. Services include confidential assessments, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation. To learn more about DMC, please call (626) 397-2323.

Are you a family caregiver? Senior Care Network is here to help. We offer professional assistance; referrals to important resources; and support and educational groups specifically designed for family caregivers. For more information, call us at (626) 397-3110 or (800) 664-4664. You may also email us at [email protected]

Sources: CDC and NIH National Institute on Aging.