Depression In Older Adults

Shining a light of hope into your darkest days

Depression is common among older adults, but it doesn’t have to be part of the aging process. As an older adult, depression can worsen the symptoms of existing health conditions, cause you to lose sleep and prevent you from living a healthy, active lifestyle.

Feelings of sadness for short periods of time are normal. But depression affects the way your brain functions, and has far more debilitating effects on your emotional and physical health. If your mental health declines, your physical health may also be affected.

Symptoms

The symptoms of depression vary from person to person, depending on how your brain is affected. Common symptoms include:

  • Anxiousness
  • Extreme appetite
  • Hopelessness
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Loss of appetite
  • Memory loss

You may feel any range of these symptoms for days, weeks and months. These emotions often keep you from going about your daily activities and cause you to believe it would be impossible for your life to improve.

Overview

Feelings of sadness for short periods of time are normal. But depression affects the way your brain functions, and has far more debilitating effects on your emotional and physical health. If your mental health declines, your physical health may also be affected.

Symptoms

The symptoms of depression vary from person to person, depending on how your brain is affected. Common symptoms include:

  • Anxiousness
  • Extreme appetite
  • Hopelessness
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability
  • Loss of appetite
  • Memory loss

You may feel any range of these symptoms for days, weeks and months. These emotions often keep you from going about your daily activities and cause you to believe it would be impossible for your life to improve.

IU Health Geriatrics physicians can diagnose depression, so you can get the treatment you need. Diagnostic tools for depression include:

Social History

Social histories provide a glimpse into your life to show how your behaviors have changed recently. These questionnaires also help physicians get to know you and your family personally. Aspects of your life such as your marital status, employment and the health of your partner can all affect your risk of developing depression. Social histories assess this risk and inform treatment decisions that increase your overall well-being.

Depression Scale

The depression scale requires that you and your family answer a series of questions that help assess your mental health. These questions might make you feel uncomfortable, but it is essential that you answer them as honestly as possible. Your doctor needs to understand how you are feeling to provide an accurate diagnosis.

Diagnosis

IU Health Geriatrics physicians can diagnose depression, so you can get the treatment you need. Diagnostic tools for depression include:

Social History

Social histories provide a glimpse into your life to show how your behaviors have changed recently. These questionnaires also help physicians get to know you and your family personally. Aspects of your life such as your marital status, employment and the health of your partner can all affect your risk of developing depression. Social histories assess this risk and inform treatment decisions that increase your overall well-being.

Depression Scale

The depression scale requires that you and your family answer a series of questions that help assess your mental health. These questions might make you feel uncomfortable, but it is essential that you answer them as honestly as possible. Your doctor needs to understand how you are feeling to provide an accurate diagnosis.

Recovery from depression is more possible than ever. Your treatment plan may include:

Medicine Therapy

Many new antidepressant or anti-anxiety medicines improve brain function, boosting your mood and alleviating the physical symptoms of depression. For older adults, these medicines mean fewer side effects and interactions with other medicines.

Antidepressants can have many side effects, so you take the lowest dose possible first to see if it is effective. Your dose may be scaled up as necessary after you have been taking the medicine for a few weeks. Antidepressants can take two to four weeks to be effective. It is important that you don’t skip pills or stop taking your antidepressants as this can make your symptoms of depression worse or prevent the medicine from being effective.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

A cognitive behavioral therapist can assist you with working through depression. This type of therapy steers the focus away from why you might be depressed and helps you change your pattern of thinking to get rid of depression.

Support Groups

You are not alone. A support group provides you the opportunity to speak with others who are feeling the same way. You may discover strategies from other people, who manage their depression successfully.

Treatment

Recovery from depression is more possible than ever. Your treatment plan may include:

Medicine Therapy

Many new antidepressant or anti-anxiety medicines improve brain function, boosting your mood and alleviating the physical symptoms of depression. For older adults, these medicines mean fewer side effects and interactions with other medicines.

Antidepressants can have many side effects, so you take the lowest dose possible first to see if it is effective. Your dose may be scaled up as necessary after you have been taking the medicine for a few weeks. Antidepressants can take two to four weeks to be effective. It is important that you don’t skip pills or stop taking your antidepressants as this can make your symptoms of depression worse or prevent the medicine from being effective.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

A cognitive behavioral therapist can assist you with working through depression. This type of therapy steers the focus away from why you might be depressed and helps you change your pattern of thinking to get rid of depression.

Support Groups

You are not alone. A support group provides you the opportunity to speak with others who are feeling the same way. You may discover strategies from other people, who manage their depression successfully.

Patient Stories for Depression In Older Adults

HealthyAging.org

This website features information on depression in older adults, its causes and treatments.

National Council on Aging

This fact sheet by the National Alliance on Mental Health provides in-depth information on how depression affects older adults.

Resources

HealthyAging.org

This website features information on depression in older adults, its causes and treatments.

National Council on Aging

This fact sheet by the National Alliance on Mental Health provides in-depth information on how depression affects older adults.