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As people age, it’s not uncommon for them to suffer from depression. Friends and loved ones pass on, illnesses take their toll, and even some medications can have profound effects on mood. For those who care for elderly relatives, knowing the signs to watch for is a critical first step to finding help.
We have written about depression previously, and also about distinguishing between depression and dementia. There is also excellent information available in the Resources section of our web site under the topic Depression and Dementia Resources.
Symptoms of depression in the elderly are similar to those seen in younger folks, but are often thought of as just a part of aging. They include feelings of prolonged sadness, fatigue, and a loss of interest in activities and hobbies. Many older people are reluctant to share their feelings with others, though, so companion care workers are trained to watch for other clues as well, such as excessive weight loss or gain, changes in sleeping habits, poor personal hygiene, and general moodiness.
While everyone experiences periods of sadness from time to time, those episodes tend to be short lived. Real clinical depression is different. In cases of clinical depression, the symptoms of depression occur daily or nearly every day, and last for several weeks. If you or a companion care worker feel your loved one is suffering from depression, talk to your loved one’s primary care physician first. The doctor will rule out physical causes and medication interactions, and if none are found will refer your loved one to a mental health professional for treatment.
Depression in the elderly doesn’t have to be accepted as a normal part of aging, and the most effective treatment begins with early detection. Companion care workers are a key part of the detection team.
Originally posted 2011-03-28 10:10:27.