Depression in the Elderly

Depression in the elderly can be caused by the side effects of medication for a physical issue

Depression in the ElderlySome people have the mistaken idea that depression in the elderly is normal. However, the opposite is true, most older people feel satisfied with their lives.

Sometimes, though, when depression develops, it may be dismissed as a normal part of ageing.

Depression in the elderly, undiagnosed and untreated, causes needless suffering for the family and for the individual who could otherwise live a fruitful life.

When he or she does go to their health professional, the symptoms described are usually physical. This is because, older people are often reluctant to discuss feelings of hopelessness, sadness, loss of interest in normally pleasurable activities, or extremely prolonged grief after a loss.

Recognising how depressive symptoms in older people are often missed, many health care professionals are learning to identify and treat the underlying depression.

They also recognise that some symptoms may be side effects of medication the older person is taking for a physical problem, or they may be caused by a co-occurring illness.

If a diagnosis of depression is made, treatment with medication and/or psychotherapy will help the depressed person return to a happier, more fulfilling life. Recent research suggests that brief psychotherapy (talk therapies that help a person in day-to-day relationships or in learning to counter the distorted negative thinking that commonly accompanies depression) is effective in reducing symptoms in short-term depression in older persons who are medically ill. Psychotherapy is also useful in older patients who cannot or will not take medication. Efficacy studies show that late-life depression can be treated with psychotherapy.

Improved recognition and treatment of depression in late life will make those years more enjoyable and fulfilling for the depressed elderly person, the family, and caretakers.

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