Depression is an unfortunate and commonly overlooked condition afflicting many seniors. As social beings, we require a sense of purpose and conversational stimulation for optimal mental health. Unfortunately, a majority of seniors may no longer have the same social relationships they once had- , family may be unable to check-in regularly or may not live nearby, loved ones may have passed away, and old friends may have moved away.
Unlike younger people, the elderly do not express their depression with sadness but rather experience the symptoms through irritability, vague ailments, and physical pain. Therefore, if your conversations with senior citizens are inundated by frequent complaints of fatigue or lethargy and description of new physical symptoms then depression may be contributing to the ongoing physical discomfort.
To make the diagnosis of depression even more difficult, elderly people are likely to be highly sensitive to the stigma of mental health and often find it difficult to admit that they may be experiencing mental health issues. For instance, your loved one may blame a lack of interest in an activity that previously brought them joy on a complaint of physical discomfort or simply being tired. Below, we take a look at 4 warning signs of depression for the elderly as follows:
1. Complacency in everything
There is a huge difference in seniors being agreeable and complacent. A senior who has lost all hope may continue going through the daily motions with a smile on their face, never disagreeing with anything or anyone. This should be an alarm bell for any caregiver as such behavior is often exhibited when he/she feels helpless because they require assistance to do everything and they consider their care as a burden on their family and others.
2. An increase in physical symptoms
Most caregivers tend to assume that an increase in suffering and physical pain is generally expected when providing care for the elderly. And while this is true for certain conditions, constant complaints of pain are usually indicative of depression. The senior may deny feelings of depression and sadness, and instead focus on physical ailments- a type of depression often seen after a major health diagnosis or one that stems from a decline in a senior’s ability to engage in activities that they once enjoyed
3. Increased daytime sleepiness
While daytime drowsiness is often attributed to difficulty in sleeping that is common among older adults, an inability to sleep in many seniors is due to exhaustion from depression. Worries about their wellness or health and the fear of death may keep them awake at night. However, when this type of depression sets in suddenly, it likely follows a life changing or traumatic event, or the passing of a close friend or loved one.
4. Fatigue and inactivity
Constant exhaustion is another common sign of depression in seniors. Unfortunately, lack of exercise and fatigue seems to be a vicious cycle i.e. if you are fatigued, you are unlikely to get exercise, which results in more fatigue. Helping the elderly remain active with appropriate exercises is thus a vital part of ensuring that they remain healthy and consequently, avoiding depression.
Depression does not have to be synonymous with aging. When your elderly loved ones are subjected to the right care, you can be guaranteed of their physical and mental wellness.