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Approximately 6 million American adults who are 65 or older struggle with depression. This mental illness may hit them in their later years. However, only about 10 percent of this demographic gets treatment. Geriatric depression is more than sadness. It’s not just a low mood. Depression affects your physical, mental and emotional health. For seniors, it affects their behavior, the way that they view themselves and the manner in which they relate to others as well as their environment. Depression is actually a severe mood disorder. It influences how you think, how you feel, how you manage your daily life and your relationships. It can make you lose motivation, your appetite and your previously enjoyed activities and interests.
While depression in the elderly may not always have a recognizable cause that we can pinpoint, it could be triggered by factors such as:
• Changes in physical health
• Medical problems
• Personal loss (loss of independence/home/driver’s license, death of loved ones, loss of ability to ambulate)
• Changing relationships with loved ones
• Loss of income and/or financial insecurity
• Side effects from medications
• Genetic history
• A personal history of depression
• Brain chemistry
An older adult and depression do not have to be linked. In other words, you don’t have to accept the fact that you have geriatric depression. Many older adults report that they’re satisfied with their lives even after they have experienced serious changes or physical problems. Retiring from your job or moving to an Assisted Living Facility can be hard to handle at first. Altering your life with such a major move can bring on strong emotions. Most people go through a period of adjustment. After that, they recover their emotional balance. But depression can linger for many elderly adults. In fact, the symptoms of depression can last longer in seniors than in younger adults.
Depression in older adults can look different than it does in a younger person. Because many elderly people are dealing with physical illnesses, detecting depression can be challenging.
For example, sadness may not be the primary symptom for an older adult and depression. They may have symptoms that mimic those of physical ailments, such as:
• Fatigue and sleeping too much
• Attention problems
Depression in the elderly is linked to an increased risk of heart problems. But they’re not sure whether depressed individuals behave in a way that increases the risk of heart disease. For example, someone who drinks alcohol to manage their depression may be putting undue strain on their heart. In certain people, learning that they have a serious illness or undergoing heart surgery can lead to depression. Depression and heart disease have a two-way relationship. Depression can make the prognosis of cardiac disease worse. People who are diagnosed with heart problems have an increased risk of developing the mental illness.
Vascular depression is a type of depression in older adults that’s caused by circulation problems. Restricted blood flow can damage the blood vessels and limit the amount of blood that the body carries to the brain. This is often the cause of the psychological condition when individuals have no personal or family history of depression. Elderly adults with vascular depression are more likely than others to develop stroke, heart disease and other cardiac illnesses.
Depression can also co-occur with other diseases, such as diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and cancer. The depression can make it harder for people to recover from the physical ailment. The illness can also make the depression worse.
Because depression looks different in older adults than in younger people, treating it can be more complicated. It’s essential to help these individuals manage any physical conditions and co-occurring mental illnesses while addressing the psychological condition.
At Blue Moon Senior Counseling, we understand that you or a loved one may be going through something extremely intense and devastating. Our Medicare-approved therapists deliver treatment via telehealth. Our team is specially trained to provide therapy to elderly adults who are struggling with depression or other mental illnesses.