While mental health awareness has been improving over the years, most depictions and representations of depression in media usually cater to younger audiences, leaving much to be desired from older audiences. Geriatric depression can easily be overlooked as typical grumpiness and crabbiness associated with old age, leading to harmful stereotypes and misconceptions about aging and depression. However, depression in older adults can look vastly different from depression in their younger counterparts. Here’s a realistic look at geriatric depression, and what the risks of depression are for older adults.
The Relationship Between Depression and Aging
Unfortunately, some may have the misconception about depression is a natural, uncontrollable part of aging. Normalizing this problem can lead to aging individuals misunderstanding the concept of geriatric depression, believing that it’s an unavoidable problem that comes with aging. In reality, most older adults aren’t depressed, and research has shown that most Americans age happily, becoming happier as they grow older. Hence, depression is a serious problem that’s outside of the norm for elderly adults that should be addressed with equal seriousness. Depression may be more common for older adults with chronic conditions that limit bodily functions. Furthermore, late-life depression has been linked to an increased mortality rate in older adults.
Depression in Older Adults
Depression in older adults can be left undetected rather easily because of how differently depressed elderly individuals act compared to their younger counterparts. While depressed older adults still experience a pervasive sadness that’s characteristic of depressive tendencies, it can easily be confused with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Furthermore, depression can be a symptom of an older adult’s other medical conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease. Alternatively, it could also be a side effect of certain prescription medications, which older individuals tend to consume more regularly.
Risk Factors for Depression in Older Adults
Older adults are susceptible to certain behaviors that make them more vulnerable to developing depression, which is why it’s important to be aware of the possible risk factors present in their environment. Aside from major life events such as the death of a loved one or a shocking diagnosis, factors such as the following are associated with a higher risk of depression at an older age:
- Other medical conditions such as cancer and stroke.
- Genes and family history of depression
- Sleep issues and disorders
- Loneliness and social isolation
- A sedentary lifestyle
Treatment for Depression in Older Adults
Unfortunately, some older adults may also be resistant to treatment even after a depression diagnosis, incorrectly assuming that treatment is ineffective and not worth the cost. However, prescription medication and counseling are both valid and effective responses to geriatric depression that have shown to result in significant improvements in a patient’s mental and emotional health. Such positive effects can be further enhanced with self-help initiatives on the patient’s end, such as regular exposure to sunlight, an exercise routine, and an improved diet.
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