Growing Risk of Depression in Old Age. What Families Need to Know Now.

Many people have depression and anxiety in the post COVID world. As we get older, the risk of depression increases. Proper treatment can improve lifestyle and quality of life.

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Growing Risk of Depression in Old Age. What Families Need to Know Now.
6 Min Read October 7th, 2021

Thinking about aging may bring many of us to depression, but the reality of aging brings real declines in health, including an increased risk of depression and anxiety.

Depression is a common mental health issue that occurs in elders who often already have other medical conditions. Sometimes, even if they don't have any significant health issues, they are at risk of depression and anxiety. However, depression is a manageable condition with proper care and treatment. 

The National Institute on Aging says that depression is a serious mood disorder, but clinical depression is not a normal part of aging. Depression and anxiety affect how a person acts and feels, and it can even affect how they think. Often, without treatment, it adversely affects the person's lifestyle and quality of life. It is, however, a common problem.

According to CDC, among adults aged 50 years or older, 7.7% were reported to have depression, and 15.7% reported a history or lifetime diagnosis of depression. Older people are at risk of misdiagnosis, and sometimes their depression symptoms are discarded as a normal age-related issue.

Types of Depression

There are several types of depression. The most common include:

  • Major Depression— severe symptoms that interfere with a person's ability to do normal activities. People often have difficulties with sleep, concentration, and eating properly. They are not enjoying life as they should.  
  • Persistent Depressive Disorder (Dysthymia)— this is the loss of interest in normal daily activities, a feeling of hopelessness, low self-esteem, and an overall feeling of inadequacy. These feelings can last for years and interfere with relationships and daily activities.
  • Minor Depression—this type of depression is less severe than major depression and dysthymia, and symptoms do not last long.

Anxiety vs. Depression

Many people with anxiety also develop depression and vice versa -especially true with older people. Approximately half the people diagnosed with depression with also be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, according to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America.

Anxiety and depression have different symptoms. For example, people with depression feel withdrawn and sad, adversely impacting their health, lifestyle, and ability to interact with others. 

However, with anxiety, it creates a state of high-alert. Those with anxiety tend to be more 'keyed up' as they struggle to manage their racing thoughts. Another distinctive characteristic of anxiety is the presence of fear about the future.

There are some overlaps in symptoms of depression and anxiety, and treatment options are sometimes similar. 

Symptoms of Depression in Old People

When an individual's symptoms of depression last for at least two weeks, it is considered a major depressive episode. The symptoms of depression are:

  • Constant feeling of sadness
  • Excessive worries
  • Frequent tearful state of emotions
  • Feeling helpless or worthless 
  • Immense weight change
  • False memories
  • Fidgeting or pacing 
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Difficulty concentrating

Medical Conditions That Cause Depression

Chronic medical conditions can trigger the symptoms of depression, especially in elderly patients. Some medical conditions that may give rise to depression include:

  • Cancer
  • Stroke
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Lupus
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Multiple sclerosis

Medication and Depression

Certain medications may cause depression as a side-effect, and some doctors miss this because they are unaware of all the medications that a patient may be taking. A doctor must be aware of all the medications you or your older loved one is taking. As we get older, we may often see multiple doctors and ensure each doctor has a list of all the medications.

For older people, be sure they have a written list of their medications with them when they go to the doctor. Adult children should also have this list. It is also best if all prescriptions get filled at the same pharmacy. Often a pharmacist will see dangerous drug interactions and can explain potential side effects.

If a person has depression symptoms when a new medicine has been added to their routine, they must tell the doctor immediately. Many people, especially older people, may fail to admit to changes in their mental state. Honest communication is essential. 

However, some medicines may successfully treat the symptoms of depression and anxiety. You may consult your doctor and get your prescribed medication from 90daymeds. Anti-depression medications help relieve the symptoms; however, monitoring the individual when taking their medicines closely is necessary. 

Treatment of Depression

As people get older, they experience declines in their health, body, and mind. Treatment may become more complex when you add depression to the mix of concerns, and various options are available; sometimes, it may require more than one approach.

Take a look at some of the available options to treat and manage depression in addition to - or in lieu of medication:

  • Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy can be comforting for elderly patients. Cognitive-behavioral therapy can yield effective results among the elderly if regular sessions are taken. This type of therapy eliminates behavioral patterns and thoughts that contribute to symptoms of depression in the patient. 

  •  Support groups

Support groups are designed specifically for older adults suffering from depression. Participating in support group activities helps the patient feel happy and calm. Some older people living in isolation may find it comforting to enroll in a support group where they can meet others in their age group going through the same issues. 

  • Lifestyle changes

Increasing social activities, being more physically active, and having healthy eating habits may help improve the mental health condition of individuals suffering from depression. Even friends and family can help by doing some activities on their own:

  • Schedule outings
  • Visit more often
  • Assist with their daily tasks
  • Cooking for the elderly 
  • Giving them a ride to their medical appointments

Depression and Long-Term Care

For those who are receiving long-term health care services, depression and anxiety can be common and complicate care plans and lifestyles. Depression in nursing home residents differs from those receiving in-home care due to the challenges of living in a formal long-term care facility.

Most families are unprepared for the changes they see in their aging parents. They see their parents go from being completely independent to dependent on others for normal living activities.  

Long-term care services are costly, even with in-home care. Family caregivers are not able to juggle the caregiving role with their careers and other responsibilities. For the older adult, this adds to their anxiety and depression. 

Planning ahead of time for the costs and burdens of aging will reduce the stress and anxiety placed on everyone. For many people, Long-Term Care Insurance offers peace-of-mind by providing access to quality care choices while protecting assets. However, the time to plan is before retirement, ideally in your 40s or 50s.

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About the Author

Jennifer Ford is a content writer/Blogger at ReadMyBlogOnline. She writes on multiple categories on health, Travel, Food, Fitness and Lifestyle. She has just started her career in the Blogging field. Apart from Blogging she enjoys cooking, reading books and playing tennis with her friends in her spare time.

LTC News Contributor Jennifer Ford

Jennifer Ford

Contributor since September 27th, 2021

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