Depression in Older Adults

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Is depression a normal part of growing older?

Depression is not a normal part of growing older, but it is common in adults who are 65 years of age or older. Retirement, health problems, and the loss of loved ones are things that happen to older adults. Feeling sad at these times is normal. But if these feelings persist and keep you from your usual activities, you should talk to your doctor.

Why does depression often go undiagnosed in older adults?

In older adults, it can be hard to tell the difference between depression and illnesses such as dementia. Also, older adults may not talk to their doctors or caregivers about their sad or anxious feelings because they are embarrassed. But depression is nothing to be embarrassed about. It is not a personal weakness. It's a medical illness that can be treated.

How are the symptoms of depression different for older adults?

In addition to the standard emotional and physical symptoms of depression, older adults who are depressed may also experience:

  • Delusions or hallucinations
  • Feelings of boredom or worthlessness
  • Memory problems or confusion
  • Withdrawal from social activities

I’m caring for an older adult. When should I talk to my loved one’s doctor?

If you are caring for an older adult, tell your loved one’s doctor about any new symptoms or changes in behavior that concern you or may be due to depression. The doctor may:

  • Ask you and other family members questions.
  • Do some tests to rule out other medical problems.
  • Talk with your relative.
  • Want to know what medicines your loved one takes.

Diagnosis and treatment of your relative’s depression can help decrease his or her risk for cognitive decline, other illnesses, and suicide.

What can be done to help depression in older adults?

Treatment of depression in older adults is often exactly the same as treatment for all other individuals.

Many older adults take prescription medicines to treat other health conditions. If one of these medicines might be causing the depression, the doctor will probably switch that medicine.

If you are caring for an older adult who is depressed, the doctor may also have some advice for you and other family members and caregivers on how to cope. He or she may recommend support groups that can help you.

 

This content has been supported by Forest Laboratories Inc.

Bibliography

See a list of resources used in the development of this information.

Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff

Reviewed/Updated: 08/12
Created: 04/12

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