Seniors, Depression And A Caregiver
When an energetic and outgoing older adult withdraws from social activities, stops calling friends, and prefers being alone, depression could be a likely reason for the change in behavior.
Depression in older adults is often overlooked because symptoms of mood disorder are also associated with health conditions common among seniors. For instance, certain medications prescribed for chronic illnesses have side effects that can trigger depressive feelings like discouragement and despair.
While some doctors screen their patients for depression, the mood disorder can go unchecked and untreated in older adults who do not get regular medical care. Even for seniors who see their doctor regularly, depression can be missed in older adults who do not show obvious symptoms of depression or in those who do not want to discuss their feelings with their doctor or family members.
Causes of Depression in Older Adults
There are multiple causes of depression in older adults, and among the top is a chronic illness (one that lasts a long time) such as cancer, Parkinson’s disease, heart disease, and multiple sclerosis. A chronic illness can limit mobility, prevent older adults from participating in activities they once enjoyed and require a dependency on others. According to the Cleveland Clinic, an estimated one-third of people who have a chronic illness or condition have symptoms of depression.
Besides a chronic medical condition, the loss of loved ones and close friends can lead to depression in older adults. While everyone handles personal loss differently, some older adults cannot get beyond the devastation, especially if the loss was sudden and involved a long-time spouse.
Some studies attribute depression to “ageism,” a term that describes discrimination and prejudice against older adults. In a survey that sampled 84 people whose average age was 75, 77 percent of the respondents reported experiencing ageism more than once. According to the survey, published in The Gerontological Society of America, the most frequent types of ageism included being:
- Told a joke or sent a birthday card that pokes fun at old people
- Talked down to (patronized)
- Ignored or not taken seriously
- Treated with less dignity and respect
- Called an insulting name
What’s more, survey respondents said they also experienced ageism from doctors or nurses who assume their health conditions were caused by their age.
Warning Signs of Depression
Just as there are different causes of depression, there are also different signs and symptoms of the condition. While people of all ages may feel down every now and then, the feeling passes after a short period of time. With depression, however, the down feeling lingers. In fact, it can bring on emotions and feelings such as:
As a result of these feelings and emotions, seniors may begin to overeat or lose their appetite, lose interest in activities they once enjoyed, suffer from fatigue, and have difficulty concentrating or sleeping.
Suicidal Thoughts Linked to Depression
Some of the same factors that cause depression can also bring on suicidal thoughts and feelings in older adults. Studies show that chronic physical illness, physical pain, bereavement, cognitive impairment, and social exclusion (feeling left out) are among the many risk factors associated with seniors and suicide.
Sadly, seniors not only contemplate suicide, but some also carry it out. Suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in 2017, when more than 47,000 committed suicide, according to the most recent year from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevent (CDC).
Also in 2017, the suicide rate (31.0 per 100,000) was highest for males 65 years old and older and more than six times higher than the rate for females (5.0 per 100,000) of the same age group. The suicide rate for females (10.0 per 100,000) was highest among those aged 45-54.
Caregivers Provide Support for Depressed Seniors
Depression can become so debilitating that older adults may not want to leave their homes. Keeping appointments, meeting friends for lunch, doing housework or other routine activities can become too overwhelming for them.
Generally, family members or close friends (of seniors who do not have relatives close by) notice the behavior and begin to provide care. However, professional caregivers may be called in to help when a senior’s condition does not improve and family members or friends become frustrated with the time-consuming caregiving duties.
At FCP Live-In, a professional caregiving agency, we provide live-in depression care services that not only support older adults who suffer from depression but their family members as well. Our in-home caregivers provide services that include personal care, light housekeeping services and companion services.
What’s more, our dedicated team of trained caregivers transport clients to medical appointments, provide medication reminders, encourage exercise recommended by their physicians, and encourage activities that prevent seniors from becoming socially isolated.
Depression is a serious illness. Fortunately, the condition is treatable. But even after depression is diagnosed and a treatment plan is in place, older adults will still need the comfort and support of others before they can begin to enjoy life and become healthy again.
To learn more about FCP Live-In’s Depression Care Services, contact the agency at 866-559-9492.