Lisa Conway – Special to FLORIDA TODAY
Q: Is depression in seniors different than in other age groups?
A: There are more than 54 million people over the age of the 65 in the United States, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
By 2050, it is estimated seniors will account for 20.2% of our population.
With the heightened awareness into mental health during the past year, I am frequently asked if depression presents itself differently in our elderly population.
One of the most common chronic disease/ailments in the general population is depression.
The telltale signs of depression can include tearfulness, changes in appetite or sleep patterns, feelings of helplessness or hopelessness, isolating and not participating in activities.
Depression can be complicated by cognitive impairment, however, which often develops in the aging population.
“Late life depression” is defined as depression occurring in individuals over 60-65.
It often under-recognized, under-treated and misdiagnosed.
The symptoms of late life depression often differ from early onset depression, with senior sufferers less likely to have a family history of depression.
People with late life depression may exhibit the additional symptoms of apathy, weariness, guilt, anger and fearfulness.
Physical symptoms also are more common in the older population, including a disheveled appearance, digestive issues and bowel irregularities, slowed or decreased speech and diminished sexual interest.
Our older population often faces multiple “depressing” events in later life, including adjusting to retirement, dealing with relocation after a move, social isolation and the death of a spouse or friends.
Aging caregivers face special challenges, with the mental and physical demands leading to fatigue and depression.
Medication reactions also can trigger depressive symptoms. A thorough review of pharmacology is one more tool for the sleuthing clinician searching for the cause of a senior patient’s depression.
Another clue to the causes for late-life depression often can be found with recent medical diagnoses.
Seniors diagnosed with a form of mild dementia may become depressed when they begin experiencing impaired concentration and reduced verbal fluency.
To complicate matters the symptoms of depression and cognitive impairment in older patients often present themselves simultaneously — and can lead to a misdiagnosis.
A geriatric specialist who understands this parallel phenomenon will seek to rule out a depressive disorder prior to treating someone for dementia.
Treatment for older adults can be complicated.
In-depth knowledge of the client is required, as is the understanding of the complex interactions between multiple medical conditions, mental functioning and depression.
If you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms of depression — don’t delay a trip to the doctor. An appropriate treatment plan may be the start of brighter days ahead.
One Senior Place is a marketplace for resources and provider of information, advice, care and on-site services for seniors and their families. Questions for this column are answered by professionals in nursing, social work, care management and in-home care. Send questions to askOSP@OneSeniorPlace.com, call 321-751-6771 or visit One Senior Place, The Experts in Aging.
Lisa Conway is a Registered Nurse and a Certified Care Manager for Senior Partner Care Services, Viera.