Everyone feels sad or “blue” at times. It is natural part of life. However, if sadness persists and interferes with everyday life, it may be depression. Sadness associated with normal grief is different from depression. A sad or grieving person can continue self-care, work and leisure activities. A depressed person, on the other hand , suffers from symptoms that interfere with his or her ability to function normally for a prolonged period of time.
Depression affects approximately 15 our of every 100 adults over age 65 in the United States. The disorder affects a much higher percentage of people in hospitals and nursing homes. When someone is already ill, depression can be both more difficult to recognize and more difficult to endure. Depression is not a normal part of growing older. It is a treatable medical illness, much like diabetes or high blood pressure.
Recognizing depression in elderly individuals can be challenging. It often is difficult for the depressed elder to describe how he or she is feeling. In addition, the current population of older American came of age at a time when depression was not understood to be a biological disorder and medical illness. Therefore, some elderly fear stigma or worry that their illness will be seen as a character flaw.
Left untreated, depression can worsen symptoms of other illnesses, lead to disability, and result in premature death or suicide. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the most common symptoms of late-life depression include:
- 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
- Those of suicide, suicide attempts
- Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not get better, even with treatment
You can learn more about all of these issues at the CDC website: