Depression in older adults has many symptoms

Depression, seniors, health available, Crisis Line, Suicide Prevention Committee

  • Nov. 4, 2011 6:00 a.m.

Lee Crevier

Special to The Morning Star

Sometimes the changes or losses that occur as you grow older (such as health problems or the death of a loved one or moving to a different home) can lead to depression, especially if you don’t have a strong support system. Depression can have many symptoms and you may be surprised at some of them.

Depression can make you physically sick or make your health problems worse; it can leave you feeling tired and worn-out for things you used to enjoy; it can affect your memory and concentration; sometimes it can have such an impact that it can be mistaken for dementia.  But depression can be successfully treated and it is not a normal part of getting older.

Edith’s story

Edith used to volunteer at the local community centre, play cards with her friends at least once a week, bake and enjoy frequent get-togethers with her grown children and grandchildren. But since her husband passed away, she has lost all interest in getting out or seeing anyone.  It has been one year since her loss, but Edith shows no sign of feeling better.

To her friends and family, Edith seems like a different person. She doesn’t joke and smile like she used to. She even seems to walk and move around more slowly. She doesn’t always answer the phone and doesn’t leave her home.  Another concern is her health — she doesn’t seem to care about her diabetes. She doesn’t eat properly and sometimes forgets to check her blood sugar or take her insulin.

Signs and symptoms of depression in the elderly:

n Sadness

n Fatigue

n Losing interest in hobbies

n Social withdrawal or isolation

n Not eating or weight loss

n Sleep problems

n Loss of self-worth

n Increased use of alcohol or drugs (even medications)

n Fixation on death or suicidal thoughts

Health problems that can cause depression include:

n Stroke

n Heart disease

n Cancer

n Diabetes

n Parkinson’s

n Thyroid disorders

n Vitamin B12 deficiency

n Dementia

n Lupus

n Multiple sclerosis

If you are concerned that you may be depressed, ask for help. Talk to your doctor or visit a walk-in clinic, tell them how you are feeling and that you are wondering if you may have depression. Call the Crisis Line at 250-545-2339; they will listen and provide you with contact information where you can get help. The local Mental Health Centre is also available for further support and education.

Lee Crevier is coordinator of the Practice Support Program for Interior Health and is a member of the Suicide Prevention Committee.