Lake County Council on Aging Blog

Depression

Monday, March 11, 2013

Depression is a medical illness in which a person has persistent feelings of sadness, often with discouragement and a lack of self-worth. Depression in the elderly is a widespread problem, but it is not a normal part of aging. In the elderly, it is often not recognized or treated.  A number of life changes can increase the risk for depression, or make existing depression worse, including a move from home; chronic illness or pain; spouse or close friends passing away; or loss of independence.

Depression can also be related to a physical illness, such as thyroid disorders, Parkinson's disease, heart disease (especially after heart surgery), cancer, stroke, or dementia. It can also occur with overuse of alcohol or certain medications (such as sleep aids). Depression in the elderly may be hard to detect. As a result, early depression may be ignored, or confused with other conditions that are common in the elderly. The most worrisome complication of depression is suicide. Men make up most suicides among the elderly, with divorced or widowed men at the highest risk.

The good news is that depression is one of the most treatable mental health problems. The first steps is to contact your doctor. She/he will treat any illness that may be causing the symptoms, or instruct you to stop taking any medications that may be making symptoms worse and avoid alcohol/sleep aids. If these steps do not help, medications to treat depression and talk therapy often help. Your doctor may prescribe lower doses of antidepressants and increase the dose more slowly than in younger adults. So if you or someone you know is depressed, take action right away so that they can begin on the road to a happier life.