Aging Dancers

Many Older Adults are Not Appropriately Treated for Depression

Depression is less common among older adults than it is among younger adults. However, older adults do have a higher risk of being affected by depression.  Because of its devastating consequences, late life depression is an important public health problem. It is associated with increased risk of morbidity, increased risk of suicide, decreased physical, cognitive and social functioning, and greater self-neglect, all of which are in turn associated with increased mortality

Over half of all incidences of depression represent a first diagnosis in later life. Although suicide rates in the elderly are declining, they are still higher than in younger adults and more closely associated with depression.

It’s really not surprising to learn that some factors actually contribute to lower incidence of depression among the aging and elderly. They include:

  • higher education and
  • higher socioeconomic status
  • engagement in valued activities
  • religious or spiritual involvement

How Many Older Adults Experience Depression?

Research shows that the majority of older adults are not impacted by depression. Furthermore, it is shown that between 1% and 5% of those living in a community area are impacted, whereas it is 13.5% for those who are in need of living assistance and 11.5% for older adults who are hospital patients and are required to stay there for the majority of their time.

Rates of major depression among older adults are substantially higher in particular subsets of the older adult population, including medical outpatients (5-10%, though estimates vary widely), medical inpatients (10-12%), and residents of long term care facilities (14 to 42%).

Depression is Completely Treatable

Many people still find it surprising to learn that depression is not a condition that normally ‘comes with age’ – and depression is completely treatable.

Like many other conditions, depression is a serious medical condition that can be treated with a variety of proven techniques. It is not just feeling sad due to loss or life events. It is much deeper than that. With this in mind, if you suspect that someone you know is struggling mentally and/or emotionally, you may be in a position to help.

The Signs of Depression

When an individual has depression, they show a variety of symptoms. The signs can include, but are not limited to:

– Lengthy periods of being sad that may include dark thoughts
– Lengthy period of being anxious, or frequent anxiety attacks
– Feeling hopeless and looking at things from a bad angle
– Losing interest in hobbies and interests that they had once been interested in
– Lack of energy
– Having trouble with concentrating, making decisions, and remember any details
– Insomnia, over-sleeping, being awake earlier than usual, general sleeping issues
– Eating less, or overeating
– Suicidal thoughts, suicidal attempts
– Constant pains such as headaches, cramps, or stomach pains, which even after treatment do not go away

Insomnia is an often overlooked risk factor for late life depression.

Depression in Older Adults

Studies show us that older adults experience depression at a higher rate. Roughly 80% of aging adults have chronic health issues. Further, roughly 50% of older adults have multiple chronic health issues. These studies also show that those with other illnesses are more likely to also experience some form of depression.

It isn’t uncommon for older adults to be diagnosed wrongly or not medically treated as appropriately as they should be. It’s common for healthcare providers to sidestep the depression of an older adult, and to consider it a symptom of another illness, as well as attribute it to changes in the patient’s life, or a drug reaction. While not deliberate, it is a common practice. Unfortunately this does not address the underlying issue, and does not focus on treating it.

Because of this oversight, the depression experienced by many older adults isn’t appropriately handled, leaving the patient without an awareness of the need and without the appropriate and necessary treatment. These older adults rarely seek a second opinion and don’t attempt to get help they need.

How to Help

Once diagnosed with depression and treated with the appropriate anti-depression drugs, the majority of the older adults who are affected by depression will notice a significant improvement in how they feel. If you suspect that your loved one has some form of depression, offer them your support and suggest seeking help with your assistance.