We are all prone to feeling a little deflated at times, but when that feeling persists for a long period and begins to affect our quality of life, it’s time to take things more seriously. Older people can be more at risk of becoming depressed, with around one in four people over the age of 65 developing depression at some point in their lives.

Despite this relatively high proportion of older adults suffering from this condition, a staggering 85 per cent never receive any help from the NHS. This can be for a number of reasons, from refusal to seek help to the condition going unnoticed by caregivers. Recognising the signs of depression and seeking help for the person can mean an earlier intervention, and shorter recovery period. Here’s what you need to know.

What causes depression?

People older than 65 are more at risk of becoming depressed than younger people, for a variety of reasons. They may feel down due to giving up work, struggling financially or losing a partner or friend. The majority of older people manage to cope remarkably well with these challenges, but for some; depression is a real risk.

Some of the most commonly identified causes of depression in older adults include:

  • Long term illnesses and failing health: People who are living with a debilitating condition, cognitive decline, chronic pain or disability can often feel depressed about their situation.
  • Bereavements: The death of a friend or family member, in particular a spouse, or a beloved pet can be a trigger for depression.
  • Isolation and loneliness: Suddenly living alone or having a dwindling circle of friends can make depression a higher risk. Similarly, losing driving privileges or no longer being able to participate in favourite activities because of physical challenges can reduce the person’s sense of purpose and negatively affect their outlook on life.
  • Anxiety: Older adults can become anxious for a variety of reasons. Financial worries can mount up, they may be fearful of dying or about their health, or they might find living alone uncomfortable. These fears can quickly develop into depression if not addressed.

If you or someone you know has experienced some of these issues, being aware of depression symptoms and acting accordingly can help tackle the problem more efficiently. Some medicines can also make older people feel depressed, including beta blockers, blood pressure medication, cholesterol control drugs and steroids. If you or someone you know feels depressed after starting a new medicine, talk to a doctor to see if there is an alternative.

Signs of depression in older adults Clinical depression is more than just feeling a bit down. It’s a persistent, debilitating condition that is hard to shake, and will start to affect many aspects of your life if left untreated. Common symptoms include:

  • Loss of interest in hobbies, social activities and conversations
  • Feelings of hopelessness, despair and of being a ‘burden’
  • Slowed movement or speech
  • Weight loss, loss of appetite or, in some cases, overeating
  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs
  • Lack of energy, low motivation
  • Neglect of self-care, such as not washing, forgetting medications and not eating
  • Problems with sleep
  • Thoughts of death and suicide

In younger people, depression can often manifest itself as a sad feeling. However, with older people, this ‘sad’ feeling often doesn’t occur, and instead they will complain of physical pains, a lack of energy and low motivation. Physical complaints such as headaches, arthritis pains and random bodily aches are often the predominant symptom of depression, so keep an eye out for this.

Depression is a clinical illness, which can be treated with medication and therapy. Older people may be reluctant to seek help, due to the perceived stigma associated with mental health problems which is typical of their generation. However, it’s important to point out that times have moved on, and that our understanding of mental health has improved, so they really don’t need to suffer in silence.

As active members our the local communities, we welcome a variety of visitors to our homes to share their enthusiasm, knowledge and experiences with our residents.

We even have our own mini-buses, enabling residents to take trips to places they’ve long enjoyed visiting or discover new interests locally. Our team’s know exactly how to provide a fun and engaging fitness and wellbeing programme too. And, of course, family and friends are welcome to join in when visiting.

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