Depression Risks for Older Adults

Senior Depression

Seasonal Affective Disorder symptoms peak in February. There continues to be a significant decrease in daylight hours which affects mood. The cold weather means more time spent indoors which can cause feelings of isolation. This is especially true for older adults and those with mobility problems. Seasonal Affective Disorder symptoms caused by environmental circumstances can mask the symptoms of clinical depression.

Clinical depression is more than feeling ‘blue.’ It is a medical condition that can be caused by health issues, chronic illness and pain, a biochemical imbalance, or significant long-term stress. Depression is treatable.

Older Adults Have an Increased Risk of Depression

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention explains that 80% of older adults have at least one chronic health condition, and 50% have two or more. Depression is more common in people who also have other illnesses (such as heart disease or cancer) or whose function becomes limited.

Older adults are often misdiagnosed and not treated. Symptoms can be mistaken as a result of life changes, loss, a reaction to medications or just a natural part of aging. Depression is not a normal part of aging.

Signs of Depression in Seniors:

  • Symptoms last for weeks at a time
  • Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness and/or helplessness
  • Irritability, restlessness
  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable
  • Fatigue and decreased energy
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering details and making decisions
  • Insomnia, early–morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
  • Overeating or appetite loss
  • Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
  • Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not get better, even with treatment

Depression in Long Term Care Settings

The transition to a long-term care community can be stressful for older adults, especially those who have recently lost a loved one or have chronic illness or pain. Leaving one’s home, letting go of long loved belongings and memories, and finding oneself around unfamiliar people can trigger feelings of depression. It is important for healthcare providers to assess each resident for signs of depression upon intake. Caregivers should continuously monitor residents for symptoms and note any new or an increase in symptoms. Care communities should offer residents a variety of cultural, educational and physical activities and programs to engage and inspire them in daily living.

How to Combat Depression

If you are concerned that you or a loved is suffering from depression, see your healthcare provider immediately. Be forthcoming about your feelings and symptoms and any behavioral changes you are experiencing. Your healthcare provider may recommend medication and/or mental health support.

In addition, you may incorporate these healthy habits to alleviate depression symptoms.

Exercise – Exercise is known to release endorphins which is believed to enhance mood.

Sunlight – Sunlight triggers the body’s release of Vitamin D, which can have an impact on depression. The use of full spectrum lighting in light fixtures during the winter months may help alleviate symptoms.

Nutrition – Nutrition can play a key role in the onset as well as severity and duration of depression. NCBI  It is recommended to eat a diet of plant-based foods, seeds, nuts and unprocessed whole grains to combat depression.

Meditation – Meditation awakens happy feelings in the brain by stimulating the ‘feel-good’ prefrontal cortex brain region.

5- Star Rated Green Hill Senior Living

Green Hill provides a vibrant lifestyle and a familial environment for residents. We engage in meaningful relationships between staff and residents, and foster resident to resident friendships. We provide stimulating creative, cultural and educational programming to engage the mind and spirit. We provide a variety of physical fitness opportunities, and access to the physical therapy room and state of the art exercise equipment. Weather permitting, residents are encouraged to enjoy the multiple outdoor spaces and walk or roll around the Green fit track. Residents enjoy monthly Superfood Presentations and are served healthy well-balanced meals by our award-winning dining team, that are high in fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein and whole grains.

More Information

If you or your older adult has feelings of suicide, call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 24-hour hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). In an emergency, dial 911.

For more information on the signs and symptoms of depression, visit the CDC.

This article is for informational purposes only and not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen.