Depression is much more than a sad, blue mood. It is actually a symptom of a chemical glitch in our brains. The human brain has chemicals that help control moods. When there aren’t enough of these chemicals or when the brain doesn't respond to them properly, depression can result. Depression can be genetic or initiated by abusing drugs or alcohol. Some medical problems and medications can also lead to depression.
Depression is not a normal part of growing older, but it is common in adults age 65 and over. Retirement, health problems and the loss of loved ones are factors that can trigger depression in older adults. But the good news is that 80 percent of depressed people can be treated effectively and their symptoms alleviated within weeks. If you have experienced four or more of the following symptoms nearly every day for more than two weeks, you may be suffering from depression:
- Feelings of sadness, anxiety, or hopelessness
- Lack of interest or pleasure in usual activities and pastimes
- Increase or decrease in appetite, or unexplained gain or loss of weight
- Insomnia or excessive sleepiness
- Low energy, fatigue, tiredness
- Feeling restless or irritable
- Inability to concentrate, remember, or make decisions
- Frequent thoughts of suicide or death
As a caregiver ---please remember:
Depressed people can lose objectivity about themselves. If signs of major depression are strong, insist that the person talk with a health professional.
Depression is not only a problem for the elderly, but also for the person who deals with the day-to-day symptoms of depression. If you are concerned about yourself, try to confront your feelings about the care-giving role and discuss them with a professional, if necessary.
Remember that depression can often mimic dementia. Try to rule out depression if the person seems confused, withdrawn, or has other symptoms of dementia.
Consult with a doctor. With counseling, medication, and home treatment, most episodes of depression can be overcome.