Virtually everyone has experienced those rollercoaster moments of hopelessness and depression, but understanding the telltale indicators and early warning signs of depression in seniors can help you to support your loved ones as they grow older.
Your loved one may feel sad today, and that is ok. After all, life is unpredictable – and sad or depressing moments are a reality for all of us. That said, it is important to understand the early warning signs of depression to better support your senior friend or family member. Some individuals describe depression as feeling empty, lifeless, apathetic, or even restless. Some men describe depression as feelings of anger, aggression, or even violence. Ask your senior if they’re feeling any of the following:
- Hopeless or helpless
- Fatigued or tired, even when getting an appropriate amount of sleep
- Irritable, aggressive, or more short-tempered
- Finding it difficult to concentrate
- Consuming alcohol in excessive amounts or engaging in unsafe behaviors
- Changes in appetite or sleep patterns
- Loss of interest in social situations
- Difficulty concentrating
Your family member or friend may not readily admit to any or all of these feelings or lifestyle changes, so keep an eye out for some of the visual or subtler indicators of depression. These can include:
- Calling family members to say goodbye or suddenly getting their “affairs” in order
- Acting recklessly when driving – behaving as if they have nothing to lose
- Speaking about themselves in a derogatory manner or saying that they are useless
- Frequent and sudden mood changes – switching back and forth from high to low
- Talking about harming one’s self
Keep in mind that men and women tend to manifest feelings of depression in different ways. Many men feel that admitting to feeling depressed is a sign of weakness, so they may compensate by complaining about being tired, irritable, or unable to sleep. Many can also become angry, violent, and reckless – and some may even turn to substance abuse to combat their feelings of depression. Be especially concerned with older men who exhibit some of these symptoms, as they are at an elevated risk of suicide when compared with other demographic groups.
Women report a rate of depression that is twice as high as men, though some of this may be attributable to a man’s lower propensity for reporting depression. Women generally display the side-effects of depression as feelings of excessive guilt, and many may overeat or oversleep as a result of the depression.
If you or a loved one is facing a difficult time and any of the symptoms listed above are coming to the surface, make sure that you or your family member seeks treatment and/or counseling right away. While some forms of depression can be caused by pre-existing medical concerns, and other types may stem from past or previous substance abuse problems, depression as a whole is something that can be mitigated by partnering with a mental health professional with experience in depression management.