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Senior Health

Avoiding Depression During The Golden Years

Reviewed by: MySeniorCare Staff
Last Updated: 4/13/2010 4:54:00 PM

Depression has become a serious problem for people of all ages, but seniors are particularly vulnerable during their golden years.

You can help your loved one avoid depression by lending an ear and watching for signs of listlessness, anxiety, extreme fatigue and other symptoms.

One of the main concerns, is that the symptoms of depression are often similar to those that afflict all seniors at one point or another. Things like decreased appetite and difficulty concentrating may be mistaken for signs of senility or just "old age."

Furthermore, seniors may be less likely than younger adults to seek assistance when they feel depressed.

Finding the Cause

Although there are not always definitive reasons behind clinical depression in seniors or younger adults, there are often triggers or risk factors that may contribute to feelings of helplessness, sadness, vulnerability and despair.

There are several potential causes, including loneliness, deteriorating physical health, grief over the loss of a loved one and the side effects of medication.

Caregivers can help seniors avoid depression in their golden years by knowing these potential triggers and reacting when they occur. If you are on the look-out for signs of depression, you are more likely to recognize what is happening and to obtain counseling for your loved one.

Typically, any symptoms of depression lasting longer than two weeks constitute a reason to seek counseling. Even if the symptoms come and go over a long period, do not assume they will eventually fade away on their own.

Physical Manifestations

Most people have come to equate depression to sadness, but this is not always the case. Depression during one's golden years might have nothing to do with sadness at all, but might manifest in unique ways that are not always easy to recognize.

For example, physical symptoms from arthritis might worsen when seniors experience depression, according to HelpGuide.org. Other physical manifestations might include headaches, lack of motivation, difficulty getting up in the morning or persistent memory problems.

Listlessness is another symptom of depression in seniors. If your loved one takes a long time to respond to questions or seems unable to engage in once-enjoyable activities, he or she might be suffering from depression.

Getting Help

If you believe that your loved one is experiencing depression in their golden years, do not assume that you can handle the problem yourself. A trained therapist is your best resource to help your loved one get through his or her depression and move on to better days.

Some seniors may resist counseling because going to a therapist seems like a loss of control. It may help if the recommendation comes from a primary care physician, for example, rather than just from a caregiver. If the symptoms are more physical in nature, treat it as a physical issue rather than a psychological one.

Depression may be more severe during the golden years than during other stages of life, and may have more serious physical repercussions. Seniors who experience depression might have difficulty recuperating from illnesses and injury, and may withdraw from friends and family members.

These disastrous complications can be avoided with a keen awareness and seeking help immediately a problem should arise.

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