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5 Symptoms Of Depression In Elderly Loved Ones (& How You Can Help)

5 Symptoms of Depression in Elderly Loved Ones (& How You Can Help)

Has your loved one recently lost interest in activities they used to enjoy? Are they complaining they are tired all the time, or perhaps not eating as much as usual? These might be signs of more than just normal aging. They could be suffering from late-life depression.

Depression among older adults is common. Research suggests that around 6 million Americans age 65 and older experience depression. However, only 10% receive treatment. This is most likely because seniors tend to show symptoms of depression differently, so it often goes undiagnosed. Untreated elderly depression can have serious, or even deadly, consequences. Seniors suffering from depression are twice as likely to develop heart disease and other life-threatening illnesses, and have the highest incidence of suicide among any age group.

Depression is not considered a normal part of aging, but there are treatment options available as well as things you can do to help your love one feel better. Recognizing depression in the elderly starts with being aware of the signs and symptoms. Here are five indicators that your loved one might be experiencing depression:

  1. Increased pain– Is your loved one complaining of low motivation, a lack of energy, or physical pain? Increased or aggravated pain such as arthritis pain or worsening headaches is a common symptom of depression in the elderly.
  2. Loss of interest in hobbies or social activities – Did your loved one look forward to a weekly lunch date with friends, but now they are making excuses to stay home? Depressed seniors tend to lose interest in enjoyable activities and avoid social situations.
  3. Neglecting personal care – Has your loved one stopped bathing, combing their hair, or getting dressed in the morning? Showing a loss or self-regard or lack of pride in personal appearance is a telling sign of elderly depression.
  4. Irritability – Was your loved one a relaxed, happy-go-lucky type, but now he or she seems grouchy and is easily irritated by small things? Sudden hostile mood changes can indicate depression.
  5. Loss of appetite and/or chronic sleep disturbances – Has your loved one been skipping meals, or saying they aren’t hungry? Perhaps they’ve been staying up all hours of the night, or been excessively sleepy during the day? Elderly depression can disrupt healthy eating and sleeping patterns.

How you can help your elderly parents or loved one with depression

If you suspect your loved one is experiencing depression, it’s important to help them see a doctor or mental health professional so they can get an accurate diagnosis and necessary treatment. Here are some other ways you can help an elderly friend or family member cope with depression:

  • Show emotional support, compassion, understanding and patience.
  • Make sure medications are taken as instructed and on time as seniors with depression may not be thinking clearly
  • Make sure your loved one is able to get to doctor visits and accompany them if necessary
  • Take any mention of suicide seriously, and report it to your loved one’s therapist or doctor right away
  • Invite your loved one out for walks or outings. Even light physical activity and getting outdoors can help elevate their mood and relieve depression
  • Plan and prepare healthy meals as a poor diet can worsen depression
  • Encourage your loved one that with time and treatment their depression will subside and they will feel better again

Late-life depression can complicate the normal challenges associated with aging. While diagnosing depression in seniors can be difficult, getting the proper treatment can help your loved one live a full, happy life.

In-home care can also be a helpful tool for helping your loved one cope with depression. Caregivers are able to provide companionship, prepare meals, provide medication reminders, and accompany your loved one to doctor visits. If you are interested in home care services, contact Family Matters In-home care for a free in-home consultation to see how we can help support your family.

Carol Pardue-Spears

Carol has worked in the healthcare field for more than forty years. As a Certified Nursing Assistant, she worked for El Camino Hospital in the cardiac unit, Los Gatos Community Hospital, The Women’s Cancer Center in Los Gatos and several home health and hospice agencies. Carol founded Family Matters in 2002 to fill a deficit she witnessed in high-quality, in-home services and care.

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