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Recognizing Depression in Elders /
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Recognizing Depression in Elders
“Depression in elderly people is a
widespread and serious public health concern,” according
to the National Institute of Mental Health. It has been
estimated that 15% of older Americans experience
depression at some point in their golden years. In
nursing homes, around 20% of the residents are
depressed, especially those living with a serious
medical condition, like cancer or heart disease.
Unfortunately, depression goes under-diagnosed and
under-treated in older Americans and this can seriously
affect the worth of their life and their overall
functioning. If ignored long enough, or, if the severity
increases, depression could lead to suicide. In fact,
America’s older population is responsible for 25% of
completed suicides. There are complicating factors,
which may mask signs of depression in the elderly.
Factors that prohibit caregivers from recognizing the
disorder or realizing their loved-one may need help.
They may be:
Side effects from certain prescription medications can
resemble symptoms of depression. In this case,
caregivers may not realize their loved-one is depressed,
but only displaying signs of drug side effects.
Cardiovascular disease medication and hormones are among
some of the drugs, which may cause a person to have side
effects that are similar to symptoms of depression.
Depressive symptoms sometimes include mental cloudiness
or confusion. These symptoms can parallel the normal
aging process as many people have come to expect the
elderly to have some cognitive deterioration. The
quandary is that normal aging may be blamed for the
mental confusion and not depression.
The loss of friends and loved ones is a common
occurrence of aging, which may cause much despair.
Depressive symptoms include feelings of hopelessness and
sadness. These symptoms could be blamed on a recent loss
to your loved one, and not on depression.
Chronic medical conditions such as
Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease may cause your loved
one to experience a loss of appetite, sleep impairment,
self-pity and lethargy. These symptoms are also encased
in symptoms of depression. The dilemma in this case is
whether to target your loved-one’s illness for the
depressive symptoms or depression itself.