With over 6 million seniors affected, and only 10% seeking treatment, senior depression is becoming a more prominent problem among the senior population. While the first thought in your head is likely, “why is the percentage of those seeking treatment so low?” you should consider certain variables.
Talking about depression, in seniors or otherwise, is typically received with stigmatization. The stigmatization can come in many forms, but the outcome is generally the same - the person reaching for help either feels misunderstood or embarrassed. Oaks Senior Living understands that this topic is not always easy to navigate. While methods of treatment can vary, being able to recognize signs of depression is the first step. We want to give you a better understanding of senior depression and how you can help your parent or loved one.
Types of Depression
Depression in seniors can be particularly difficult to recognize due to medications that the average senior may be taking. These medications can induce depression-like symptoms or aide in concealing depression due to other underlying side effects. While this is not always the case, recognizing depression in itself is challenging. Not only does depression have different symptoms, but there are different types of depression:
Major Depressive Disorder: This depression refers to an episode of depression that lasts for more than two weeks. This form of depression can feature symptoms such as fatigue, weight gain/loss, a lack of interest in hobbies or activities, and difficulty concentrating. This type is considered Persistent Depressive Disorder once the depression is present for most days during a two-year span of time.
Seasonal Affective Disorder: Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.) refers to depressive episodes that occur when the seasons change. This disorder commonly occurs during the months of decreased sunlight or months where the presence of prolonged, undesirable weather can stifle activity.
Atypical Depression: While other types of depression can last despite current events, atypical is the opposite. This form of depression can be subjective to change due to a positive development or good news. It is crucial to understand that atypical depression is unlike other types, and even this change of mood does not mean the episode of depression has passed. Atypical depression has symptoms such as extreme eating or weight gain, a superfluous sleep schedule, excessive sensitivity to rejection, heavily reactive moods, and fatigue or weakness (akin to feeling weighed down). Unlike the name implies, atypical depression is far more common than most assume.
Symptoms can vary, and not everyone with depression experiences feelings of sadness. This misconception is what often leads to depression not being recognized in seniors, or why treatment is never sought.
An Understanding Environment
If you are noticing changes in your loved one’s behavior or believe they may be dealing with depression, what is the next step? Step number one should be to create an environment where your parent or loved one feels heard and understood. With the stigmas against depression being so prevalent in today’s society, you want to take a nurturing approach. Instead of prying or forcing the conversation, let them know you’re there for them - whenever they are ready to talk.
If your parent or loved one does not feel comfortable talking with you, suggest the idea of speaking to a professional. You should not push them into any situation unless warranted by harmful or concerning actions, but you want to make sure they know their options, and that help is available.
One factor that may play a role in senior depression is objective social isolation. As their friends pass away or their social circle shrinks, seniors may experience increased feelings of loneliness. However, to be clear, objective social isolation is isolation or loneliness that is perceived by the person. An older adult can live alone without feeling lonely, while an older adult can be surrounded by people regularly but still have feelings of loneliness.
Depending on your parent or loved one’s situation, one way to combat social isolation is finding an environment or community where they feel comfortable. Oaks Senior Living is a welcoming and loving community. We are proud to be family-operated, and we treat every resident as a member of our family. We invite you to visit our blog and learn more about our community and healthy aging for your parent or loved one.