Blog & Journal


Recognizing Depression in Elders

esther.diaz May 30, 2017

If you have an aging loved one, then he/she is slowly becoming more susceptible to depression because of the many life changes he is/will be experiencing. It is important that you, your family doctor(s), and your caregiver services work efficiently together in order to recognize this deadly disorder right away.

Depression in Elders

Studies show that elder are very susceptible to a type of mental disorder called subsyndromal depression which has been known to, eventually, cause major depression. Elders with major depression have been shown to be more prone suicide. A study conducted by the National Institute of Health in 2007 has shown that senior citizens comprised 16% of the total amount of suicides in 2004.

Geriatric Depression (the term used for mental disorders in elders) affects over 6 million Americans over 65 years old but only approximately 60,000 of these people get the proper treatment. The reason is because the symptoms in the elderly could be confused with the effects of illnesses and medicines that they experience.

Causes of Geriatric Depression

While there is no single cause of depression for any age group, it has been shown more frequently in elders with biological, social, and psychological issues. These issues include the following:

  • Thoughts of impeding death
  • Disabilities
  • Retirement
  • Loneliness
  • Low finances
  • Past substance abuse
  • Experiencing the deaths of loved ones
  • Separation from the spouse
  • Medical conditions


Depression in elders may be hard to spot as it usually comes with the development of illnesses and disabilities. You may think that their shift in character may just be adjustments to the sicknesses. One must look deeper in order to recognize depression. The following are the usual signs of depression that you must be able to distinguish apart from the sicknesses:

  • sadness
  • vocal about feeling worthless
  • moodiness
  • fatigue
  • frequent crying
  • apathy
  • restlessness
  • loss of concentration
  • problems with sleeping
  • changes in appetite
  • suicidal thoughts
  • physical pains

The last item (physical pain) is more common in elders with depression than the young.


While the symptoms may look the same, the effects of depression are different for younger and older people. For the elderly, this is it does to them:

  • The risk of cardiac diseases, heart attack, suicidal thoughts and actions, and subsequent death increases.
  • The ability to rehabilitate decreases.
  • Physical illnesses may develop.
  • The disorder lasts for a much longer period of time.

How to Have Your Elderly Diagnosed

The first people that can clearly see if your elderly citizens have depression are their personal doctors and/or caregivers. It is highly advised that they do routine checks to screen their patients for the disorder. When they do find that they have it, they must immediately refer them to an expert. Do the same if you yourself see that your elder has shown symptoms of depression for two weeks.


Depression has no single treatment as well and usually involves the use of therapy, medication, and changes in lifestyle.

The following are lifestyle changes that your elders with depression can try:

  • An increase in physical activity.
  • Trying a new hobby.
  • Regular visits from family and friends.
  • Getting ample daily sleep.
  • Maintaining a well-balanced diet.

For therapy:

  • Art therapy: Expressing feeling through art.
  • Psychotherapy: Speaking with a professional about depression.


  • selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
  • selective serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
  • tricyclic antidepressants
  • monoamine oxidase inhibitors
  • bupropion
  • mirtazapine

Taking care of your elders can prove to be difficult while balancing all the different factors in your life. But with the help of you doctors and caregivers, you can make sure that they get the care they need.

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