When people get old they are more prone to depression. In fact, depression is a common disease in elderly individuals.
Usually, depression in elderly goes untreated as people don’t consider it seriously. It is characterised by persistent feelings of sadness and a lack of self-esteem.
Causes of depression in elderly
Elderly individuals are vulnerable to depression due to various life changes faced by them. These changes not only make them depressed but also enhance the severity of symptoms if already present.
Common causes of depression
• Change in the location of residence after retirement
• Pain of separation from children
• Feelings of isolation or loneliness after death of children
• Inability to do various activities such as driving or running
• Associated illnesses or chronic pain
• Difficult to concentrate or think clearly
• Loss of memory
• Depression linked with drug or alcohol abuse
• Depression linked with physical illnesses such as thyroid disorders, heart disease, Parkinson’s disease, or stroke.
• Depression as a part of dementia
• Depression as side effect of many medications
There is lack of awareness in many older people about depression. In majority of cases, older people do not see doctor for treating the symptoms of depression as they consider it as normal phenomenon.
Symptoms of Depression in Elderly
The symptoms of depression in the elderly are not easily identified. Most of the depression symptoms in elderly are similar to the symptoms of depression in other individuals.
• Loss of appetite
• Difficulty in sleeping
• State of confusion
• Loss of memory
• Changes in eating habits or loss of appetite
• Loss of interest in activities that were once pleasurable
• Irritable moods
• Not taking shower or avoid shaving
• Dirty and wrinkled clothes
• Tendency to remain isolated or Withdrawing from others
• Avoiding medications
• Not answering phone calls
Diagnostic tests for depression in elderly
Psychiatrists may ask various questions to elderly patients about their symptoms of depression.
The diagnosis of the depression in elderly patients is performed by doctors after thorough medical examination of the depressed patient. Patient is also asked to conduct blood tests for ruling out any other medical cause of depression.
Common Diagnostic Procedures
• Full patient medical history
• Physical Assessment
• Thorough evaluation of symptoms
• Standardized questionnaires like Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression, and the Beck Depression Inventory
Laboratory tests for ruling out other medical causes
• Blood tests for TSH and thyroxin levels for excluding hypothyroidism
• Basic electrolytes and serum calcium for ruling out metabolic disturbances
• Full blood count including ESR for ruling out a systemic infection
• Adverse affective reactions for alcohol misuse
Treatment for depression in elderly
In older people suffering from depression, doctor first treats any underlying physical illnesses
that may be causing depression.
The antidepressants usually cause more side effects in elderly patients therefore psychiatrists prescribe the medications which provide maximum benefits with minimum side effects.
The dosages of these medications are also adjusted in elderly patients and their effects are carefully monitored.
The doctors usually employ the combination of various therapies to obtain the optimal results.
• Medications like antidepressants and antipsychotic medication
• Cognitive-behavioural therapy/ Psychotherapy
• Physical exercise
• Support from families/friends
Tips for elderly patients with depression
• Elderly patient should adopt positive changes in their lifestyle
• Exercise regularly and remain physical active
• Take interest in pleasurable activities
• Maintain proper sleeping habits
• Minimize use of alcohol and other illegal drugs
• Get engage in socialising activities
• Express feelings to close friends and family
• Maintain strict regimen of taking medications