• Alex Jarvis

Ageing and Depression


How well do you understand aging? It’s quite common to assume that depression is associated with aging, but actually, this is a misconception. So the question to ask now is: Is depression a normal part of aging?

There’s so much to understand about geriatric depression or depression in older people.

Depression is a serious condition. It’s more than just a simple low mood which affects both the individual’s mental and physical health. While most of us feel down, moody or sad every now and then, some experience these feelings more intensely and far longer (like weeks, months and even years), and often without any apparent/specific reason.

At some stage in our lives, 1 in 6 women and 1 in 8 men will experience depression. There’s no precise rate of depression in the elderly, but it is believed that between 10-15% of Australians who are above 65 years old experience it. In addition, older people living in residential care facilities have a much higher risk for depression than the general population –a staggering 30 %.

Depression is not easily detected in the elderly. Symptoms like mood changes, appetite and sleep problems, as well as sadness, are usually dismissed as “normal” part of aging. Their memory difficulties and poor concentration are also confused as dementia (or other related chronic conditions).

Although older people are at greater risk for developing mental health issues because of the impact of compounded risk factors (including isolation and chronic illnesses), there’s NO evidence that aging itself is a critical cause of depression in the elderly.

Depression in older adults reduces the quality of their life and their relationships with family/friends. Severe depression also increases risk for suicide. In the general population, the highest rate of suicide is among males aged 85 and older.

What are signs of depression in the elderly?


While symptoms of depression are generally the same in ANY age group, they also vary from person to person. Here are some of them:

  • Irritability and nervousness for no apparent reason

  • Feelings of sadness, worthlessness, and hopelessness

  • Crying spells

  • Lack of energy or fatigue

  • Apathy

  • Lack of focus/concentration

  • Difficulty remembering things

  • Restlessness

  • Social withdrawal

  • Sleep problems (too little/too much sleep)

  • Changes in appetite (overeating or lack of appetite)

  • Suicidal thoughts

  • Digestive problems

  • Physical pains & aches and headaches (Depression is a common cause of physical pain among the elderly –which isn’t explained by other medical conditions.)

If you/your loved ones are experiencing any combination of these symptoms, it’s very important to seek intervention immediately. Medications and talk therapy can help. Our therapist here at Jarvis Hypnotherapycan offer you/your loved ones professional treatment; and the sooner it begins the better.

What’s the treatment for depression in aging people?


Just as there’s no single cause of depression, there’s not a cookie-cutter treatment for everyone either. It often takes time (and a few trial-and-errors) to find the right depression treatment. An effective treatment typically consists of a combination of medication, therapy, and lifestyle change.

Medications used in depression treatment can include:

· SNRIs, selective Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors

· SSRIs, Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors

· MAOIs or MonoAmine Oxidase Inhibitors

· Tricyclic antidepressants

· Mirtazapine

· Bupropion

Lifestyle changes for the treatment of depression include:

· getting enough sleep everyday

· increasing physical activity (like regular daily exercise)

· having regular visits (and interactions) with family and friends

· finding a new interest/hobby and learning something new

· eating a balanced and nutritious diet

Therapies that help an elderly with depression include: psychotherapy (speaking with a trained therapist in a private setting) and art therapy (a process where one can express feelings creatively). Jarvis Hypnotherapyalso offers professional treatment to older adults with depression.

How can you help an elderly with depression?

You can help by getting them a doctor or therapist if you suspect they have depression. Doctors are trained to give diagnosis and prescribe medication while therapists have professional training to help treat it. Moreover, you can help in many ways, such as:

Talking

Regularly talk with your loved one and listen attentively. Take seriously what they say and you may give advice if they ask. Never ignore comments about suicide.

Offering Support

Be patient, understanding, and encouraging. A simple touch, a cup of coffee shared with them, and a comfortable silence while sitting together are a huge relief to their troubles.

Being a friend

Offer kindness and friendship. Invite them regularly to come and spend time with you. Keep them company. Listen to their stories of childhood, teen years, and experiences in life.

Showing optimism

Assure your beloved elderly that their depression will improve –with time and treatment. (Note that you should always report any talk of suicide to their doctor or therapist).

Depression is NOT a normal part of aging (or even at ANY phase in anybody’s life). Geriatric depression can aggravate problems that come alongside aging. Although it isn’t always easy to identify and diagnose, there are a number of options to treat depression and numerous steps that one can take to reduce the risk of developing it. If you’re concerned that an elderly loved one may be depressed, family and friends can profoundly affect their care.

The more we offer timely help to our old loved ones, the better chance they have for a happier, healthier, and quality aging experience.

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References:

1) https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/depression-and-ageing

2) https://www.whereyoulivematters.org/depression-normal-part-aging/

3) https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/elderly#coping

0412 398 313

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