Mikol Davis, Psychologist  |  10 Comments  | 

Depression Among Elderly People

You're visiting your elderly Dad, and notice that he just doesn't seem to have his old "spark." He speaks slowly. He doesn't want to go out. He spends his time watching TV or falling asleep during the day. He isn't eating much. You're worried. Is Dad okay?

What is Depression?

Depression is the most common of mental conditions which can be treated, but among the elderly, it is one of the most overlooked.  Sometimes, it's because physicians don't recognize the signs and symptoms of depression. Sometimes it's because of an overall attitude of society that perhaps feeling low is just part of getting old. The danger in overlooking depression is twofold. First, quality of life that could be improved isn't, and unnecessary suffering goes on. Second, the alarming fact of elder suicide looms.

Depression is an emotional state with a physical component. The physical component is triggered by brain chemistry, and can be helped.  When it is, physical symptoms tend to lessen.

Feeling low doesn't have to be a permanent part of getting older. There are many elders who are able to take aging in stride, and accept the many limitations that accompany getting along in years. Aging is frequently marked by losses. The death of a spouse, siblings and friends, as well as losses of physical strength and abilities can lead to sadness. The sadness associated with loss can lessen with time. 

But what if Dad, who lost Mom last year, just doesn't seem to care about anything anymore? If more than a year has passed since loss of a spouse, and an aging parent still seems unable to move forward, it may to be time to see the doctor for a checkup.

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