Elderly Home Care Blog

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Depression in Senior Citizens: Signs, Causes, and Treatment

Caregivers and family members of elderly loved ones may notice mood or behavior change during the holidays. Some Senior Citizens exhibit unusual signs of fatigue or sadness. They may also have limited interest in the holiday festivities. Depression in Seniors is a serious issue that should not be overlooked. 

It’s not always clear what causes depression in Senior Citizens. For some, it’s due to loneliness around the holidays. The colder months can intensify feelings of sadness. It is not necessarily the holidays themselves that cause these emotions, rather the accompanying memories of earlier times.

Signs of Depression

Senior Citizens with depression may not say they feel sad at all, even when asked. Instead, they may experience low motivation, a lack of energy, or physical problems. Physical complaints, such as worsening arthritis pain, are key symptoms of depression. Some other common signs include:

  • Loss of weight or appetite
  • Abnormal sleep patterns
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Abuse of medication or alcohol
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Lack of motivation, energy, or purpose
  • Inexplicable feelings of sadness
  • Fixation on death and thoughts of suicide
  • Memory problems
  • Neglecting personal care

It’s crucial not to overlook these signs and symptoms. Depression shares many symptoms with dementia. Depression and dementia can occur separately or together. Remember, only a professional can diagnose mental illnesses. 

Causes of Depression

There is no single cause of depression in Seniors. As adults grow older, they are at a greater risk for depression. Significant life changes can increase these risks. The prevalence is significantly higher in women than in men. Potential causes are:

  • Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – This type of “winter blues” varies by season. It is more prevalent in northern states like New Jersey where the winters are dark and cold. 
  • Health problems – Disability, chronic pain, or cognitive decline can lead to depression.
  • Loneliness and isolation – Some factors include living alone and a dwindling social circle.
  • Reduced sense of purpose – Seniors may feel a loss of purpose or identity due to retirement or limited mobility.
  • Recent bereavements – Another common cause is the death of friends, spouse, family members, and even pets.

How to Help

If you suspect your aging loved one suffers from depression, the first step is to contact the doctor. Only a health professional can diagnose mood disorders. They also have resources to assist you. Medication, therapy, or a combination can lead to improvements in depressive symptoms.  

There are also things you can do at home. The right treatment for depression depends on the person and the cause. For example, light therapy and vitamin D  are often helpful for those suffering from SAD. 

For many, spending time with loved ones during the holidays reduces loneliness. Plan a shopping trip, bake cookies together, and spend time with friends. You can also help develop a sense of purpose through church activities and volunteering.

An in-home companion or home health aide will go a long way to reducing loneliness. Call us at 908-788-9390 to see how we can assist you in helping your loved one.

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