While it’s fairly common for some residents of Bel-Air and elsewhere to sometimes be depressed, mental health experts emphasize that this condition isn’t part of the aging process at all. In fact, many caregivers will tell you that depression is something to try to prevent or avoid, and encourage people to seek treatment for.
The team at Accredited Home Care is aware that many of our clients are dealing with depression. It’s a common condition for any age, but especially challenging for seniors for several reasons.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, as of 2009, about 6.5 million of the 35 million members of the population over age 65 have some sort of depression. The Centers for Disease Control said the numbers increase depending on the level of care needed. One estimate shows that 1% to 5% of those living on their own in the community are depressed, 13.5% of those who receive home health care services are, and up to 11.5% of those needing hospitalization or advanced care experience some depression.
Many seniors do have very valid reasons that could push them closer to depression.
- They may feel alone, especially if they live by themselves, some of their friends, family, or loved ones aren’t nearby or have passed away.
- They may have experienced a recent death of someone significant to them, such as a spouse.
- They may have concerns for the future, everything from finances to politics to health.
- They may have regrets about life choices.
- They may have health conditions that limit their activities and quality of life.
- They may have certain health conditions that increase the risk of depression, such as arthritis, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, or Alzheimer’s disease.
- They may be taking some medications that increase the risk of depression.
- They may have a past history of depression.
Being depressed isn’t just having a bad day or a few unhappy moments or unfortunate circumstances. Clinically, it’s having continuous negative feelings for an extended period of time. There are different degrees of depression based on different symptoms and the strength of the symptoms.
Generally, depression can take the form of a whole lot of feelings and actions, not just sadness. It could include fear, unhappiness, boredom, fatigue, loss of appetite, and loss of interest in activities you used to enjoy. Depression could affect the body too and could increase the risk of suicide or self-destructive behaviors like binge drinking or drug use. Because depression impacts quality of life so much, it can affect relationships, employment, school performance, and even bleed into physical health – not wanting to or being able to get off the couch or bed or out of the house could make it difficult to exercise regularly.
Seniors and depression
Research into senior mental health indicates that there are some key differences in diagnosing and treating depression in seniors vs. younger people. Seniors may not recognize the symptoms, and assume what they’re feeling is part of aging, a sign of dementia, or due to other health changes.
They may not be familiar with depression, since it’s a fairly new condition that researchers are just beginning to understand. In the past, some mental problems weren’t understood. They may think that depression is just sadness that goes on for a while or something that other people get when they could have many other symptoms. They also may not be comfortable telling their health care provider what they’re feeling.
Or, in some cases, a provider may not be familiar with depression either and chalk up what they’re feeling or experiencing to other conditions, such as feeling fearful or not having much appetite. The physical pain that some get from depression can easily be blamed on other conditions or medications. Mental Health America said more than half of people treated for mental health care visit a primary care physician, and less than 3 percent of people age 65 or older receive treatment from mental health providers.
It also said that primary care physicians are able to recognize and diagnose depression. Not doing so could further aggravate symptoms and allow the depression to continue or grow worse.
But people who may be dealing with depression or know someone who is should be encouraged to seek treatment. Today’s methods are effective and can include all sorts of options, from medication to therapy. There are even lifestyle changes that can help reduce depression, such as increasing exercise and improving diet. Social experiences help as well as complementary medicine like yoga or massage.
If you’re not that familiar with depression and want to know more about the signs to watch for, this is a good month to improve your learning. October is National Depression and Awareness Month, an opportunity for people to find out more about depression including local mental health resources. The month is a great time to find out more about the different mental and physical symptoms and how to get help. The general consensus today is that is more likely to get worse on its own instead of getting better on its own, which is why seeking help sooner rather than later is so important.