Watch for These Signs of Depression in Your Elderly Loved Ones


Watch for These Signs of Depression in Your Elderly Loved Ones

Currently, the percentage of people dealing with a wide range of psychological disorders is staggering. Baby boomers, one of the largest population blocks in history, falls squarely into this category. Several individuals in this age range take various medications for anxiety, panic attacks, depression and more severe psychiatric conditions. Secondary to their aging, recognizing the worsening symptoms that require medical intervention grows ever more challenging.

Given the current state of our healthcare system, medical professionals may only interact with their elderly patients for less than thirty minutes even under the most serious of circumstances such as falls resulting in broken bones. In times of crisis, the doctors and nurses focus on the greatest needs. Elderly patients may be able to mask the more significant signs of depression on routine visits giving a false level of stability. Doctors are unable to adjust patient treatments when they are not aware there is a problem. 

Family members and friends notice small changes first due to the amount of time spent with the ones they love. These variations should be noted and brought to the attention of those caring for the person medically. Everyone in the life of an elderly individual should take an active role by being aware of their medical history. This process can be challenging and tedious but goes a long way in assuring nothing is overlooked.

People facing this struggle need strategic ways to recognize when things have changed. Having a few simple items to check will allow them to monitor their loved one’s depression. Since symptoms may overlap with other serious medical concerns, family members and friends should not be overly concerned about raising unnecessary warnings. Their attentiveness might address an unseen problem outside of depression.

Red Flags

* Losing track of time and place with growing frequency causes the elderly person to place themselves at greater risk for accidents.

* Isolating themselves from the people in their lives makes assessing their state infinitely more difficult.

* Remaining stationary, either in a bed or chair, creates a sensation of listlessness and allows the muscles to atrophy.

* Not eating proves worrisome due to the natural lack of physical stores in fat and muscle to sustain a loved one following missed meals.

These concerns also crop up in numerous medical concerns with aging. Neurological diseases, chronic pain and memory issues like dementia may present in similar fashions. Depression also lurks as a secondary condition to most major and chronic medical conditions. The longer someone lives with a particular impairment the harder it becomes to truly determine their baseline state.

Monitoring loved ones who are battling depression becomes critical as they age because of the annually rising suicide rates among the older populace. When making it to the next day feels insurmountable, a family member may choose to surrender rather than continue the battle. Starvation, overdose, and other less violent methods of suicide are sometimes used by the elderly. One of the biggest concerns regarding those at risk for suicide stems from those with undiagnosed depression where there were no earlier attempts to take their life nor had they given any sign as to bad they feel. They are the ones who slip away quietly.

Paying close attention to loved ones, both with depression and battling a major medical condition, may do more than ease their pain in the moment. Watching that they eat regularly, keeping them active and engaging them with stories of their current lives go a long way to stave off the deep hopelessness triggered by depression. Leaving it all to chance may place those you care about at even greater risk.

Dr. Sue Reddy specializes in the treatment of infectious disease among many other specialties. She understands what is required to live a healthy, active life. Please feel free to take a look around her website and if you feel she provides services you may be interested in, give Dr. Reddy a call. Her staff would be more than happy to set up an appointment and answer any questions you may have.

Dr. Reddy is currently conducting clinical trials. If you think you may be interested in participating in one of our trials, please feel free to contact our office.  Study-related medication, procedures, and doctor’s visits are FREE for clinical trial participants, and you will also be compensated for your participation.For more information, please contact Barbara, our Research Coordinator, at 714-968-6789.