Fact #1: Depression Is NOT a Normal Part of Aging
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 20% of people ages 55 and older experience some type of mental health concern. Depression is the most common of these among older adults and can lead to a decline in physical, mental and social functioning.
Depression is more than just a passing mood. Rather, it is a persistent condition where one feels overwhelming sadness, withdrawal from previously enjoyed activities, trouble sleeping, unexplained physical pain and feeling “slowed down.” It can affect how people feel, think and handle daily activities, such as sleeping, eating and working.
Navigating life as an older adult can be difficult but depression is a true medical condition that can be treated. Be aware of these risk factors and symptoms to get the help you need.
Older adults may feel and show depression in less-obvious ways than younger people. Sometimes they may appear to feel tired or irritable. They may be confused or have attention issues that mirror Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Medical conditions or medications can make symptoms worse. What’s more, older adults may not be willing to talk about how they are feeling.
You Should Know
- The only way to know for sure if you or your loved one is struggling with depression is to consult a medical professional.
- No one needs to suffer; depression is treatable in most individuals.
- Mental health treatment can improve overall health, as mental health and physical health are often intertwined.
Psychiatric assessments may be necessary if an individual is having difficulty with:
- Memory loss
- Mood disturbances
- Coping with losses and transitions
Recognizing Who’s at Risk
While there can be risk factors for mental health challenges at any age, older people may experience life stressors that are more common in later late, including:
- Significant ongoing loss in capacities
- Decline in abilities, including things like reduced mobility and chronic pain
- Bereavement, including death of a spouse
- A drop in socioeconomic status with retirement
- Isolation and loneliness
Seeking Treatment Is Crucial
Older adults with mental health conditions visit the doctor and emergency room more often, use more medication, incur higher medical charges and stay longer in the hospital. Depression is one of the most successfully treated illnesses. There are highly effective treatments for depression in late life, and most depressed older adults can improve dramatically from treatment.
Also, there's a new option in seeking care. A new mental health crisis line, reached by dialing 988, was launched nationally this summer. The line connects mental health care professionals to those in crisis.