Depression in the Elderly
Sundar, a 60-year-old man began complaining about frequent body aches, though he was quite healthy. On some days, he would get irritated for no reason, throw tantrums and grumble at his family members. His son was worried about the sudden change in Sundar’s behavior. They consulted a psychiatrist and Sundar was diagnosed with depression..
This fictional narrative has been constructed to aid the understanding of this disorder by placing it in a real life situation.
What is geriatric depression?
Geriatric depression (depression among the elderly) is rarely identified or treated. There is a misconception that older people often feel sad because they have health problems or have lost their loved ones, and signs of depression may be seen as a normal part of aging.
What are the symptoms of geriatric depression?
Depression among the elderly is mostly ignored or is difficult to detect because common symptoms like loss of appetite or sleep, tiredness, irritability can be a part of aging or physical illnesses associated with old age. Early signs of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and visual or hearing loss can also sometimes mimic some of the symptoms of depression.
Along with the common symptoms of depression, geriatric depression has some characteristic features such as:
Inability to remember events
Unwillingness to interact with other people
Loss of appetite and weight
Frequent complaints about body ache and pain
Loss of patience and frequently being irritated with family members
Lack of sleep and restlessness
Depression can also co-exist with other chronic medical illnesses such as diabetes, hypertension, stroke, arthritis, cancer, etc.
Treatment for geriatric depression
With the right kind of treatment, geriatric depression can help the person have a better quality of life. It is important that elders receive treatment at an early stage of depression.
Along with treatment or therapy, a supportive family environment combined with affection and care, regular exercise and a structured routine will help the person recover and lead a regular life.
Caring for someone with geriatric depression
If an elderly person in your home has depression, you can offer them emotional support. Listening to their feelings and emotions with patience and compassion helps them cope with the condition to a great extent. You can take them to the doctor for a diagnosis, and encourage them to take the required treatment.
You can also:
Encourage the person to follow the treatment plan
Encourage them to pursue a hobby or activity; it will them relax
Encourage them to take up a non-strenuous a physical activity (depending on their energy levels)
Encourage them to meet their friends and other relatives so that they can socialize
Help them schedule their day-to-day activities so that they follow a routine
Take care of their nutrition