Dealing with depression

Paula Fielding  |  August 5, 2013

Some elderly people look forward to moving into an assisted living community, but others experience a range of negative emotions when faced with the prospect of leaving their home. This can be especially true in cases where elderly people can no longer take care of themselves and need assistance with everyday tasks. Depression can be a common side effect when senior citizens have to handle major life changes, but what is depression, and what action can be taken both by caregivers and older people themselves?

Some elderly people look forward to moving into an assisted living community, but others experience a range of negative emotions when faced with the prospect of leaving their home. This can be especially true in cases where elderly people can no longer take care of themselves and need assistance with everyday tasks. Depression can be a common side effect when senior citizens have to handle major life changes, but what is depression, and what action can be taken both by caregivers and older people themselves?

Dispelling myths

One of the most common misconceptions about depression is that it is simply "feeling low." Although this is one of depression's many symptoms, some people do not realise that depression can often be the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain. In some cases, serotonin, a chemical secreted by the brain that is sometimes referred to as the "happy hormone," is absorbed back into the bloodstream too quickly, or insufficient amounts of it are produced, leading to prolonged feelings of sadness, hopelessness and a range of other emotions.

Everybody feels down at one time or another, but depression is when these feelings last for several weeks and begin to interfere with everyday life. This can be particularly dangerous for senior citizens living in care homes, as if they experience prolonged bouts of lethargy and other symptoms of depression, their overall health can suffer.

At-risk groups

Women are significantly more likely to be depressed than men, but both men and women of all ages can be susceptible to this debilitating condition. In elderly people, other medical conditions that cause pain, such as osteoporosis, are often associated with depressive symptoms. In addition, individuals over the age of 65 are more likely to develop depression than younger people.

Treating depression

Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to treat depression without the use of medication. "Talking therapies" can be effective in the treatment of depression without medical intervention. However, before making this decision, speak to your GP and determine whether any course of treatment should include medication.

As a caregiver, if you are worried about an elderly relative's state of mental health, be sure to discuss your concerns with the staff at the nursing homes you are considering to see what kind of support is available for elderly people suffering from depression.