When your senior is more than just a little sad

Guest post by Felicity Dryer

According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention), depression in older adults is not necessarily a natural part of the aging process. However, seniors are at a greater risk for developing this treatable, sometimes serious and very real medical condition.

CDC statistics share with us that 80% of older adults suffer from at least one type of major medical condition, while 50% have two or more issues. Depression becomes more common in people who must live with these types of illnesses associated with becoming older, diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer and heart conditions.

Some Good News

Thankfully, similar statistics state the majority of seniors are actually not depressed, estimating a small percentage of around 1% to 5% of those in this older age range diagnosed with this often debilitating disease. But as we continue to grow older and require more in-home care, rates rise to over 13% and for those who are hospitalized, their numbers hover around 11% or more.

Often when we become older, we experience sadness due to the losses that we may experience: the passing of loved ones, increasing lack of mobility, loss of vision and hearing, other signs of age.

Usually these are temporary and will generally pass with time. But how can we tell when sadness is more than a simple case of the blues and should be treated and diagnosed as clinical depression?

Warning Signs

The CDC warns us to look for warning signs that can differentiate between simply being sad and actual clinical depression. In some cases we can cope, and in others we need to seek professional help and should obtain it out in order to help our loved ones. Often older adults are misdiagnosed by caregivers and healthcare providers that may mistake an older adult's symptoms of depression as just a natural reaction to illnesses or the life changes that may occur as we age.

Look for these signs that can last longer than one would usually consider as being normal -- in this case lasting in excess of weeks or even months -- rather than just a matter of hours or days:

  •  Feelings of hopelessness, guilt, worthlessness, helplessness and/or pessimism
  • Irritability and/or restlessness
  • A loss of interest in activities or hobbies that they once enjoyed
  • Increased fatigue and a decrease in energy
  • Difficulty concentrating, memory loss or problems making decisions
  • Overeating or a loss of appetite
  • Insomnia or excessive sleeping
  • Persistent aches and pains, headaches or cramps
  • Digestive issues that do not improve even with treatment
  • Thoughts of suicide or attempts at self-harm or taking their own life

Being proactive can make a really big difference for those on the outside looking in when assisting our loved ones when they cannot do it for themselves. If there is ever comes a time when you believe that your loved one is a danger to themselves or to you, please call 911 immediately. Having someone angry with you today is better than not having them with you tomorrow. 


About the author: Born in Flagstaff, Arizona, Felicity Dryer was raised by her parents (modern-day hippies) to always make her health a top priority. She moved to Los Angeles to pursue her career as a freelance health writer, and continues to help those seeking encouragement to keep moving forward to achieve their goals.