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Resolving Geriatric Depression for Graceful Aging

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Resolving Geriatric Depression for Graceful Aging


Depression can occur at any age, but individuals aged 65 and up, face particularly concerning issues. Statistics show that more than two million Americans in this age group struggle with depression. Sadly, many seniors tend to minimize the symptoms and disregard them as part of aging. This is far from the truth. Depression is an illness at any age. As a consequence of this misconception, almost 80 percent of the geriatric population does not receive adequate help for easing geriatric depression, a serious, but highly treatable disorder.


Differentiating Depression between Older and Younger Adults

Depression in later life is referred to geriatric depression, which is extremely different than the depression experienced by younger adults. Late life depression often occurs with other medical health issues and illness. Research suggests that senior depression is often hidden in somatic and psychotic symptoms, such as body aches, fatigue, memory loss, poor reasoning, and sluggish thinking, while younger people feel kinds of sadness and despair.

Senior adults who are depressed will often withdraw and isolate themselves from the world. In contrasts, adolescents, although withdrawing to a certain degree from adults in their lives, will continue to socialize with close friends and will generally express difficult emotions through anger and irritability. With geriatric depression, seniors are prone to experience episodes of insomnia. On the other hand, depressed teens, although may experience changes in sleeping patterns, will still be able to sleep anytime.

The symptoms of geriatric depression are often attributed to aging. This oversight that even health professionals commit make up for the reason why many seniors are not even aware they are struggling with a treatable emotional health condition. The cost of misdiagnosis or mistreatment of geriatric depression can be enormous considering how the disorder can worsen co-existing physical illnesses, provokes self-harming tendencies, increases intention to end life, and hastens mortality among seniors.

Late life depression requires a different treatment approach than when it occurs in earlier life stages. Like in adolescents, the same combination of talk therapy and medication also works, but for some, just one form of treatment may be beneficial. Since seniors are more sensitive to medicines, health care providers may initially prescribe lower doses. Generally, the treatment of geriatric depression takes longer than it is in younger patients.


Risk Factors for Depression in Older Adults

Senior life has a lot of components that can spark the onset of geriatric depression. The causes are more diverse than younger people. At a time when older adults are supposed to be enjoying every moment of their golden years with less stress, there are some physical and emotional triggers that can be risk factors for late life depression, including:


  • Death of loved ones: The unbearable sadness felt when a spouse, friends or relatives pass away can also translate to the loss of reliable support systems and sense of direction.


  • Health problems: A declining health or deteriorating body due to aging can be frustrating. The limited physical abilities can take away the sense of purpose and pleasure in activities once enjoyed in life for seniors who are still cognitively sharp.


  • Comorbidity: Having another disease or disorder can cause depression in aging people. Depression is linked to any chronic medical condition, specifically painful, life-threatening, or disabling ailment, such as Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, cancer, stroke and heart disease.


  • Medications: Older adults can negatively respond to certain medicines and/or combinations of many commonly prescribed drugs, which can bring about side effects that can affect their emotional stability.


  • Facing mortality and other fears: The realization about their limited time, dwindling financial resources or health issues can drain the motivation and interest of older folks to spend the rest of their lives to the fullest.


  • Loneliness and isolation: Living alone, a declining social circle and support system, decreasing mobility, or missing out on daily activities/routine can cause loneliness and a feeling of alienation to some seniors.


There is no single cause blamed for geriatric depression. Some signs can be mistaken as side effects of comorbid health conditions, so it is crucial to know what symptoms to look for.


Spotting Symptoms of Depression in Seniors          

Treating depression in senior adults is possible if you know how to recognize the signs and what healthcare resources are available to help. It is important to be on high alert for potential risk factors and symptoms implying there is a serious chronic condition that is not just part of the regular aging process. Some major red flags of geriatric depression include:


  • Sleeping troubles: Seniors who are depressed experience insomnia spells and memory loss. They wake up exceptionally early in the morning or sleep for long hours due to insufficient sleep at night.


  • Crying spells: It is expected to shed tears for major life transition, such as the death of the spouse or an illness, but when a senior often cries irrepressibly for no apparent reason, there might be an underlying issue.


  • Anhedonia: The inability to feel pleasure, or anhedonia, is a common symptom of depression and other emotional health disorders. When an older adult stops feeling happy from activities previously enjoyed even if there are no deterrent physical limitations, depression may be the culprit.


  • Change in appetite and/or weight: Depression, like other emotional disorders, can have an impact on the appetite and weight regulation for people regardless of age. Seniors struggling with geriatric depression may either overeat for comfort, or completely lose interest in food due to feelings of apathy and hopelessness.


  • Concentration and decision-making problems: Depressed seniors may have trouble remembering details and focusing on their daily tasks. Some seniors may have difficulty making decisions due to their lack of concern for future consequences and pessimism.


  • Physical pains: Aches and pains are a typical part of aging, but frequent complaints about discomfort without a clear physical cause can indicate the development of geriatric depression. As a result, the frequent digestive issues, muscle cramps, or headaches may not be alleviated by usual treatments.


  • Self-Harm: Activities or behaviors that indicate the desire or attempt to harm oneself calls the need for immediate help. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), self-harm and obsession about death are common among depressed seniors, especially those with a disability or dependent on others for care.


If you or a significant senior adult in your life is manifesting any or a combination of these symptoms, it may be a good idea to speak to a professional to fill your heart with hope again and improve the quality of your life at this stage.


Feeling Good at Your Age

Depression can happen to anyone, at any point in time, regardless of status or background. As life brings about changes that can be challenging, especially for older adults, they are not reasons to give up. No matter what curve ball life throws at you, you can still feel good as you age gracefully toward the golden years.

Depression is not an accepted part of aging, but it can worsen the problems associated with aging if not treated. It is not always easy to diagnose, that is why it is important to choose a good therapist with effective treatment options for geriatric depression. Meet the independently contracted right fit professional for you at Carolina Counseling Services – North Fayetteville Office – Fayetteville, NC.  Call today for help to enrich your life again.

Serving Areas: Carolina Counseling Services

Counties: Cumberland, Bladen and Sampson Counties, NC
Areas: Fayetteville NC, Ft Bragg NC, Pope Field NC, Silver City NC, Linden NC, Bowmore NC, Autryville NC, Bunnlevel NC, Erwin NC, Dundarrach NC, Pineview NC, Rex NC, Lemon Springs NC, Johnsonville NC, Eastover NC, Stedman NC and Wade, NC
Zip Codes: 28311, 28395, 28390, 28356

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Carolina Counseling Services – North Fayetteville Office, Fayetteville, NC

422 McArthur Road, Suite 2
FayettevilleNC 28311

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PO BOX 9909
Fayetteville, NC 28311

Choose your Therapist

  • Becky Clark, MSW, LCSW

    Specializes in: (Ages 18+) Anxiety, Depression, Individuals, Couples, Geriatrics, Criminal Justice, Stress Management, Loss and Grief related to death, disability, divorce, deployment, “empty nest”, retirement and other major life transitions
    Insurance: BCBS, Tricare, Medicare, and Cash

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    Location: Fayetteville, NC