The following information comes from the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH)
Depression is a common problem among older adults, but it is not a normal part of aging. It may be overlooked because for some older adults who have depression, sadness is not their main symptom. They may have other, less obvious symptoms of depression or they may not be willing to talk about their feelings. Therefore, doctors may be less likely to recognize that their patient has depression.
Different people have different symptoms. Some symptoms of depression include:
. Feeling sad or “empty”
. Feeling hopeless, irritable, anxious, or guilty
. Loss of interest in favorite activities
. Feeling very tired
. Not being able to concentrate or remember details
. Not being able to sleep, or sleeping too much
. Overeating, or not wanting to eat at all
. Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
. Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems
It is important to remember that a person with depression cannot simply “snap out of it.” Treatment choices differ for each person, and sometimes different treatments must be tried until you find one that works.
Medications called Antidepressants can work well to treat depression, and Psychotherapy can help a person work through a difficult time in their life. Treatments can take several weeks to be effective and you may need to try a few different medications or therapies before finding one that works for you.
How can I help a loved one who is depressed?
. If you know someone who has depression, first help him or her see a doctor or mental health professional.
. Offer support, understanding, patience, and encouragement.
. Talk to him or her, and listen carefully.
. Never ignore comments about suicide, and report them to your loved one’s therapist or doctor.
. Invite him or her out for walks, outings, and other activities.
. Remind him or her that with time and treatment, the depression will lift.
How can I help myself if I am depressed?
. Try to do things that you used to enjoy before you had depression. Studies have shown that doing these things, even when you don’t expect to enjoy them, can help lift your spirits. Go easy on yourself.
. Break up large tasks into small ones, and do what you can as you can. Don’t do too many things at once.
. Spend time with other people and talk to a friend or relative about your feelings.
. Once you have a treatment plan, try to stick to it. It will take time for treatment to work.
. Do not make important life decisions until you feel better. Discuss decisions with others who know you well.
If You Are In A Crisis
Older adults with depression are at risk for suicide. In fact, white men age 85 and older have the highest suicide rate in the United States.
. If you are thinking about harming yourself or attempting suicide, tell someone who can help immediately.
. Call your doctor.
. Call 911 for emergency services.
. Go to the nearest hospital emergency room.
. Call the toll-free, 24-hour hotline of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255); TTY: 1-800-799-4TTY (4889) to be connected to a trained counselor at a suicide crisis center nearest you.