If you or a loved one is suffering from depression, it’s important to know you’re not alone. While it’s more common in individuals with health conditions, aging adults as a group are at increased risk of depression. It is experienced by millions of Americans over the age of 65. At St. Barnabas Health System, our caring staff, community programs, and medical providers are dedicated to all aspects of senior wellness and prevention. Find out more about spotting depression and what you can do to help your loved one in their time of need.

About Late-Life Depression

Clinical depression is a treatable medical condition that affects more than just a person’s mood. It impacts how they feel, act, and think. For many aging seniors, significant life changes can also lead to depression. Some of the causes and risk factors for this condition include:

  • Loneliness and isolation: Aging adults who live alone or have limited social engagement are at risk of depression.
  • Health complications: Feelings of depression for many arise in adults with disabilities and health conditions, such as chronic or severe pain, cognitive decline, and life-threatening illnesses.
  • Decreased sense of purpose: Many aging seniors feel a loss of identity when they reach retirement and experience other life changes as they grow older.
  • Loss of independence: Whether it’s because of an injury, a chronic illness, or the natural aging process, being hospitalized or needing home health care may lead to depression.

Because aging adults experience depression differently, it may be difficult to identify it in a loved one at first. Late-life depression shares some of the symptoms of other illnesses and can be caused by certain medications. It’s also common in aging adults living with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Identifying Depression in a Loved One

It’s important to realize that depression is not a normal part of growing older, and it’s not the same as everyday feelings of sadness. A loved one suffering from this condition will often have a noticeable change in mood or attitude that lasts for prolonged periods. Common symptoms include:

  • Loss of interest in activities and hobbies
  • Anxiety or worry
  • Decreased energy levels
  • Aggravated aches and pains
  • Difficulty concentrating and making decisions
  • Memory issues
  • Insomnia or excessive sleeping
  • Appetite changes
  • Restlessness or irritability
  • Neglected personal care
  • Feelings of hopelessness or guilt
  • Loss of self-worth or feeling like a burden
  • Fixation on death

Treatment is available for your loved one during this difficult time. A visit to your doctor or healthcare provider is always the best first step. Your provider can find out if depression is caused by any current medications and connect you to a mental health professional who can provide further guidance. A treatment plan focused on your loved one’s mental health can help improve their outlook and overall wellbeing.

Please note: If you think your loved one is experiencing depression to the point of suicide or self-harm, seek emergency assistance immediately by dialing 911.

Getting the Help You Need in a Caring Community

Late-life depression often prevents loved ones from enjoying life like they used to and living their golden years to the fullest. At St. Barnabas Health System, we pride ourselves on building a sense of community among residents and assisting them live an active, healthy life. Our medical center is available to those who need professional care, including loved ones who may be experiencing depression. We also offer memory care support groups for individuals and caregivers coping with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. For more information about our services across the greater Pittsburgh area, get in touch with us today.