Fighting depression in elders – Recognizing early signs and treatment

Depression can happen at any age and specially as we age. Usually, behaviour of older adults starts to resemble that of children. The difference however is that they have lived a life full of experience, decision making and learning from others. The expectations and demands of senior citizens vary and are different from children and adults. Globally, many of them stay alone and require assistance for domestic chores and to go about each day. In the current COVID-19 crisis, the health, spirits and morale of the elderly need more attention. World Health Organisation has listed the elderly among the high-risk groups and vulnerable to the ongoing infection. At such times, having mental health concerns such as depression is at peak. 

Is depression a part of aging?

As we grow older, we need to realise that depression can happen to anyone. It is not necessarily a part of aging or a sign of weakness. It is not related to the way one has lived their life. Genes, bereavement, retirement and declining health are some of the triggers for depression. 

Is sadness the reason for depression?

Older adults undergoing depression do not necessarily feel sad. While depression is associated with feelings of emotional upset, some also feel a loss of interest in activities, physical pain, change in appetite and insomnia. Sadness, like any other emotion fades with time and is temporary. Depression is a long-term medical condition and goes way beyond only feeling sad. 

Types of depression

There are several types of depressive disorders classified under:

    • major depression that challenges the mobility of everyday life
    • persistent depressive disorder that lasts for at least two years
    • psychotic depression – a common mental disorder negatively affecting someone’s life 
    • seasonal affective disorder -related to changes in season and usually has the same start and end period

Recognizing the early signs in the elderly

Depression in the elderly differs from that of younger people. Also, the signs and symptoms of depression in all older people are not the same. At an older age, depression comes with an increased risk of fatality. It also challenges their ability to rehabilitate, making it imperative to recognise the early signs and identify the red flags. Below are some of the imminent signs to watch out for:

  • appearing to feel tired
  • having trouble sleeping
  • seeming grumpy and irritable
  • sadness or feelings of despair
  • aches and pains
  • social withdrawal
  • low interest in pursuing hobbies
  • low appetite or weight loss
  • lack of motivation and energy
  • day- dreaming and insomnia
  • suicidal thoughts
  • ignoring personal care
  • memory problems
  • medical condition such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes etc. 

While the above mentioned are early signs, a primary care doctor can screen for depression during routine visit for other ailments, providing better diagnosis and treatment.

What are the next steps?

Do not isolate yourself. Ask for a friend or family to help you. Get immediate professional help.

Can depression be prevented?

Lifestyle changes in mid-life may be the key to the prevention of depression in old age. Some of these include:

  • reduction of high blood pressure 
  • reduction of cholesterol and lipid levels 
  • increased physical movements 
  • weight and diet control 

Is there a treatment for depression in senior citizens?

Yes, depression is a treatable medical condition. Recognising the early signs in depression can go a long way in bringing the situation under control. Brain training, medications, counselling and socialization can help in overcoming depression. Good health care and change in medications for current illnesses can show positive results in stabilising the situation. 

If you or someone you know has identified some of the above signs, you can get in touch with our trained healthcare professionals for a virtual counselling session. At Evolve Brain Training we specialise in depression treatment in Dubai that are personalized and with guaranteed results. 

Dr. Upasana Gala is the founder and CEO of Evolve Brain Training, a Neurofeedback-centered institute that focuses on using non-invasive brain training techniques to maximize the brain's true potential.

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