Depression in the Elderly
Despite the fact that depression frequently accompanies aging, it is not a necessary aspect of life for the elderly. Depression in the elderly is often the result of major life changes at this stage: including retirement, the death of a spouse or other loved ones, increasing health concerns, and social isolation. Interestingly, many elderly adults do not complain of feeling sad, but complain about other symptoms of depression, including a lack of energy or motivation.
There are many symptoms of depression outside of sadness. Fatigue, a loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities, loss of appetite, social withdrawal, increased use of alcohol or drugs, and feelings of worthlessness are all potential warning signs of depression. The focus on physical symptoms is more common in the elderly, indicating potential depression.
Many seniors therefore fail to recognize depression, believing that physical decline is a necessary part of aging. As a result, the elderly often fail to seek out treatment. However, depression in the elderly can lead to increased cardiac disease, and interferes with the person’s ability to rehabilitate from injury or surgery.
Antidepressants can be helpful in treating depression in the elderly. However, antidepressants must be balanced against the other prescription drugs routinely used by seniors. Some can cause a sudden drop in blood pressure when standing up, for example, increasing the risk of falls and fractures.