Depression is not a normal part of the aging process! However, many older adults experience depression but fail to recognize it. They may experience tearfulness, hopelessness, agitation, or sleep disturbances and not realize that these may be symptoms of depression. Other common physical symptoms of depression in older adults can include headaches, back pain, digestive problems, and muscle aches and joint pain.
We know that older persons can experience losses related to the aging process. These losses can include personal dignity and self esteem, cognitive function, personal possessions, and love. There can also be issues related to loneliness and isolation, fears, and recent bereavement. (A person grieving is not usually depressed, though. While some symptoms such as frequent crying and profound sadness look like depression, grief is a natural and healthy response to bereavement and other major losses.) Reluctance to talk about feelings or ask for help can complicate matters. This is unfortunate because even in its more severe forms, depression is highly treatable.
One complicating factor with older adults and depression is that it is often mistaken for dementia. That’s because the two conditions have many similarities. Sometimes a family will assume the behavior of an older adult is age-related dementia when in reality it is depression. And when the depression is treated, the behavior changes for the better.
Many older adults take a variety of medications and this can be problematic—especially if the medications are prescribed by several different physicians. I encourage older adults to have all their medications evaluated by a pharmacist to make sure that drug interactions are not occurring. Many medications also have side effects that can be detrimental to mood, or worsen a preexisting depression. Some medications that can induce depression include steroids, painkillers, hormones, arthritis medications, and high blood pressure drugs, to name a few. Some medical conditions can also cause symptoms of depression, including B12 deficiency, thyroid disorder, sleep apnea and testosterone deficiency. It is very important for me, as a provider of geriatric counseling, to know what medications are being taken and what chronic conditions are being treated. And, just like I do when working with a young person with depression, I will assess and treat through the lens of an integrative approach. This simply means that I look at the biological, psychological, social, and spiritual factors that are at play. This is a whole-person approach and I find it to be very effective in geriatric counseling.
Contact my office to make an appointment for your geriatric counseling session today.