Aging can certainly bring about feelings of sadness – that’s normal – but, depression isn’t a normal reaction to aging. Even though it isn’t the norm, almost 20% of elders experiences depression as they age. More alarming is the fact that most don’t get treatment for it.
The loss of a loved one or the sudden onset of a debilitating illness can play havoc with a senior’s ability to bounce back into a chosen lifestyle or to ward off the symptoms of depression.
“Depression in the elderly may be more common [in seniors], but it is certainly not normal and it can be treated just as successfully in seniors as in anyone else,” explains Gary Kennedy, M.D.
Sadness and grief rather than depression are often the causes of withdrawal from social activities and participating in things that used to make them happy. It’s important to recognize the difference in sadness and depression.
If the person’s withdrawal or other symptoms of depression are prolonged, it could be very dangerous. Clinical depression may be the cause and should be treated immediately.
As seniors become frailer, they don’t necessarily become more depressed. Older adults are usually more resilient because of lives that have included grief and sadness along the way. But, if that senior becomes physically or mentally impaired the chances of depression increase.
When depression begins to interfere with the senior’s ability to function and carry on in a usual manner, their peace of mind and pleasure in simple things are stolen from them. They may develop suicidal thoughts or develop habits (such as alcohol) that lead to an early death.
When you (or someone you care for) have been wrestling with depression for a number of years, keep in mind that aging can worsen the condition. It’s a situation where time doesn’t cure all ills – but only make them worse.
The elderly are usually affected by depression worse than any other group. When feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness are experienced, serious repercussions may occur. That’s why this debilitating disorder needs to be dealt with in the elderly quickly and seriously.
If you suspect that you or a senior in your life has gone from sadness and/or grief into the throes of a depressive state, find out more about what you can do about the situation. Online help exists to help you find your way – or get in touch with a health care professional. There are many treatments that can help.