Depression in the elderly, or late life depression, is important to healthcare awareness because older patients tend to not report feeling depressed. They are more likely to report symptoms of depression, such as fatigue, insomnia or anorexia. Depression can definitely be triggered by other factors, such as serious chronic conditions. It has been found that 3.7% of older patients with one chronic condition will be likely to suffer a major depressive episode, where only 1% of patients who do not have a long-term condition will experience serious depression. More than 2 million American adults over the age of 65 struggles with depression, and depression-related suicides are higher, at 15%, in this age group whereas it is 12% for general ages.
Depression Symptoms in the Elderly
Often, signs of depression in the elderly are attributed to losing a spouse or illness. Two thirds of nursing home residents have a form of mental disorder, which can make depression symptoms harder to distinguish. While illness and stress may be contributing or compound factors, elderly depression should be taken seriously as the disease it is, rather than as a normal part of aging. Exact causes for elderly depression are unknown, but the brain changes can be triggered by stressful life events like retirement, losing a loved one, chronic illness, or social isolation.
There are nine signs of depressions that experts use for diagnosis: ongoing sadness, low energy or fatigue, aches and pains, appetite changes, trouble sleeping, difficulty focusing, feelings of guilt or worthlessness, lack of interest in social life, and suicidal thoughts. If you experience at least five out of nine symptoms, for longer than two weeks, then you would likely be considered to have major depression.
Treatment for Depression in the Elderly
Late life depression can be effectively managed, and it has been found that 80% of adults recover with the help of both antidepressant medications and psychotherapy. Yet almost half of (2 out of 5) elderly people who are depressed are not taking medication. The FDA has approved over 20 antidepressant medicines, such as Prozac. Treatment options include SSRIs, MAOIs, Tricyclic antidepressants, and psychotherapy. Out of the medication options, Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) are considered a frontline antidepressant drug. Combining treatment medication with therapy is greatly recommended because elderly people are often faced with difficult circumstances, physical issues and higher medication use. Psychotherapy helps provide behavioral and cognitive training, relational support, and day-to-day problem solving abilities. Antidepressant medication and therapy can combat the symptoms of depression in the elderly to help improve emotional, social, and physical quality of life.