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The Most Common Causes of Depression in Older Adults

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It is alarming to see when older loved ones lose interest in activities that they usually enjoy. They may dread waking up in the morning because they find it challenging to get through an entire day. Time seems to crawl at a snail’s pace, making them feel anxious and sad. Unfortunately, depression is prevalent in seniors. Studies conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that around 7 million older Americans over 65 experience depression annually.

To make matters worse, depression in the elderly impacts every aspect of their life, such as energy levels, sleep habits, appetite, work, relationships, and hobbies. When one neglects these elements, it may even lead to more health problems. To mitigate these issues, it helps to look at the most common causes of depression in adults.

Signs of depression in older people

Depression is more than just feeling a bout of sadness. It is an actual medical condition that people cannot “get over” without proper treatment. Depression is not part of the normal aging process. However, older individuals indeed have a higher risk when it comes to experiencing depression. Family members or close friends who are concerned should bring their elderly loved ones to a health care provider for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Someone who is depressed will feel terrible, anxious, and sad for long periods. It is not just a fleeting feeling, but it is constant and can last for weeks at a time. Though signs of depression vary on an individual basis, in the elderly, the most common red flags of this condition are the following:

  • Feels intense emotions of sadness, despair, and anxiety
  • Lacks interest in doing hobbies
  • Ignores relationships and doesn’t want to socialize
  • Experiences no motivation and energy for anything
  • Suffers from sleep disturbances like insomnia, oversleeping, or daytime sluggishness
  • Experiences low self-esteem and self-worth
  • Feels self-loathing for being a burden
  • Shows sudden slow movements and speech
  • Increases use of tobacco, liquor, or other drugs
  • Fixates over death
  • Thinks suicidal thoughts
  • Neglects personal hygiene
  • Forgets to take maintenance medication
  • Skips meals with loss of appetite
  • Suffers memory issues

The loss of mobility

The loss of mobility in seniors is a significant predictor of depression. When they can’t move due to physical complaints like joint pains, stiff muscles, and aching hips, they cannot do many activities. Because they have brittle bones, most seniors must move carefully to prevent any fractures. The latter will be hard to heal with their advanced age. Because of the loss of independence due to their mobility issues, seniors struggle with immense sadness that can lead to a downward spiral.

Seniors tend to feel as if they are burdensome when they are no longer fit and able to do what they like. These physical limitations tend to make them feel useless, especially now that their kids are all grown and self-sufficient. Consequently, the elderly feel helpless and hopeless with their reduced mobility because their aging bodies curtail their freedom and independence. With these restrictions, seniors lose their sense of purpose, which affects their mental wellbeing.

To minimize the onset of negative emotions, caregivers and loved ones must promote mobility in older people. Take them out for short walks in the park, do gardening, and conduct gentle geriatric workouts. Those who have deeper mobility issues must be encouraged to use assistive devices like canes and walkers. Even scooters and wheelchairs will work wonders for those who are completely immobile. Carving out time every day to enjoy the beauty of nature will inspire a well-spring of hope.

Social isolation and loneliness

Many things change when people age. The primary consideration is that most seniors live alone as their grown-up children have families of their own. They have an empty nest and feel equally desolated inside their hearts and souls. Unfortunately, they cannot readily go out to seek friends, as some may have passed on or relocated to a different adult community.

Additionally, each elderly person is also busy coping with his or her declining health. Some seniors are in pain, so the tendency is to stay in the house, while others lose their driving privileges because of poor eyesight and reflexes. All these factors isolate them from their immediate circle, which precipitates a cloud of grief and sadness.

With retirement, seniors no longer see their work friends and earn their keep. Being unable to engage in their passions and receive an income from their honest work can trigger depression. After all, no one likes feeling worthless. Usually, retirement is fun at the onset, but when people realize they have nothing to do all day, it becomes a different story. When people retire, they lose their financial security, part of their identity, status, and even self-confidence, leading to insecurities and an increased risk of depression.

Health problems

As people age, it is normal for health to decline. As a result of their bodies failing them, some seniors experience depression as a psychological reaction to the illness. Most seniors experience ailments like high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, dementia, surgery, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, cancer, and the like. All of these medical issues can trigger depression because it affects the quality of their life. When health problems inflict pain or result in disability, it can be challenging to cope.

With the onset of illness, it is common to feel fear because there is a feeling that death is imminent. Additionally, most seniors take prescribed medications to keep themselves healthy. Sadly, depression is a common side effect, especially with multiple drugs they need to take daily. Mood-related side effects are nothing new, but they are more glaring for older adults because the aging body can no longer metabolize and process drugs efficiently.

Mental illness and depression are silent killers that may attack anyone at any age. It is vital to keep a close watch on family, friends, and most especially, the elderly with this in mind. Seniors most often live alone, so having support may improve their conditions. When people fall ill, a loved one’s comforting presence can go a long way in providing security and assurance. People in their golden years need more compassion so they can live through the twilight of their lives with a smile.

If you or someone you know experiences mental health issues, it is important to seek help from a qualified professional. Our Resource Specialist can help you find expert mental health resources to recover in your community. Contact us now for more information on this free service to our users.

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About the Author: Lianna Arakelyan is a content writer and digital marketing expert to the extreme with a knack for social media marketing strategy and implementation. She is extreme in her work with a deep goal of always being updated on online and offline marketing and technology news of the world.

Photo by VÍctor Daniel Giraldo on Unsplash

The opinions and views expressed in any guest blog post do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in the article or linked to therein. Guest Authors may have affiliations to products mentioned or linked to in their author bios only.

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