Depression is more than having a bad day or feeling a little “blue.” Depression can be described as feelings of sadness, hopelessness and a loss of interest or pleasure in things you usually like to do. You might be worried about depression if you’ve felt this way for a couple of weeks or longer. Depression is the most common mental health problem in older adults. Although common, it is not a normal consequence of aging. Depression in later life is an illness that can be treated. [CCSMH]
Depression should not be seen as the unavoidable fate of older age. Still a number of seniors experience depression. On the one hand, the rate of major depression in older adults is relatively low; touching 3-5% of older adults aged 65 and over living in the community. On the other hand, the prevalence of symptoms of depression in this population is significantly higher, with about 15% of older persons in the community reporting significant levels of depressive symptoms.
- Does not get dressed
- Does not answer the phone or the door
- Loses interest in activities he or she used to enjoy
- Expresses feelings of worthlessness and sadness
- Unusual outbursts of crying, agitation or anger, or shows little emotion
- Sleeps poorly or too much
- Eats more or less than usual
- Complains about physical symptoms that do not have a cause
- Lacks energy, is often tired
- Often confused
- Difficulty concentrating
- Has trouble remembering things
- Trouble making decisions or following through with plans
- Spends more time alone
- Talks about suicide
What can I do about depression? (Tips from CAMH)
Get help: Depression deserves the same care and attention as any other medical condition. There is no shame in seeking help. Treatment options for depression include antidepressant medications, available from a family doctor, and counselling. Both can be very effective. Older adults who are contemplating suicide should speak to their doctor or go to the nearest hospital emergency department.
There are also many things older adults can do on their own or with family and friends to prevent or lessen the effects of depression.
Be active: Exercising the body helps to lift the mood. Even taking a short stroll or joining a local Aqua Fit class can help to make the world seem a brighter place.
Think positively: Instead of thinking about what you could have done differently in life, think about what you’ve done right. Remember your strengths and how you overcame challenges in the past.
Eat well: Food is your fuel. When you eat nutritious healthy foods in the right amounts, it can boost your strength and help you to feel well.
Get involved: When you enjoy what you’re doing, you enjoy life. Rekindle your interest in activities you used to enjoy or find new ones.
Manage stress: Think back on stressful times in the past and how you got through them. Can you use the same techniques again, or is it time to try something new?
Avoid alcohol: Having a drink may seem to make you feel better for a short while, but alcohol can actually worsen depression. Being active, enjoying others and eating well can give you a natural high that won’t have negative effects.
Spirituality: Seeking answers about life and coming to peace with the past and the present can improve your perspective on life. Examining your faith can involve returning to your roots, finding fellowship in an organized religion or seeking understanding outside a traditional religion.