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in Older Adults and Caregivers

Although depression may be a common medical condition, it is not a normal part of aging, and studies have shown that most older adults are generally satisfied with their lives.  


The stresses and changes that sometimes accompany aging and being a caregiver can all lead to depression. 

  • Poor health

  • Pain

  • Decreased functional ability

  • Reduced mobility

  • Financial issues

  • Loneliness and isolation

  • Lack of physical activity

  • Caregiver stress

  • The death of friends and family members

  • Substance use


Older Adults are often misdiagnosed as healthcare providers may mistake their symptoms of depression as a reaction to illness or life changes. Older adults themselves may share this belief and forgo seeking help because they do not realize that they could feel better with appropriate treatment.  If someone experienced depression as a younger person, they are more likely to have depression as an older adult.


Family Caregivers suffer from depression at nearly twice the rate of the general population. They often sacrifice their own needs when providing care and when coupled with the strain of being a caregiver can lead to feelings of anger, anxiety, isolation, exhaustion, sadness, and guilt. 


Common Symptoms

People experience depression differently so symptoms can vary from person to person. If you or your loved one experiences symptoms for 2 weeks or more, you should speak with a doctor. 

  • Persistent sad or anxious mood

  • Irritability or restlessness

  • Loss of interest in once pleasurable activities 

  • Moving or talking more slowly than usual

  • Feelings of hopelessness, guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness

  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, or making decisions

  • Fatigue or decreased energy 

  • Overeating or loss of appetite

  • Difficulty falling asleep, waking up too early, or excessive sleeping

  • Persistent aches, pains, or digestive problems that do not improve with treatment

  • Thoughts of death, suicide, or suicide attempts


Treatment and Recommendations

For most people, depression improves with treatment. A combination of psychotherapy and medication has been shown to be effective for older adults. As people get older, the way the body absorbs medications can change, increasing the risk of drug interactions. Everyone responds differently, so let the doctor know if the treatment plan does not seem to be working and what other medications and supplements are being taken.   


The National Institute of Mental Health offers the following recommendations:

  • Set realistic goals and do not take on more than what is reasonable at the current time 

  • Break large tasks into small ones, set priorities, and do what you can

  • Try to be with other people and confide in someone

  • Participate in activities that you enjoy - exercise or attend a religious, social, or community event

  • Expect your mood to improve gradually, not immediately

  • Let family and friends help and seek professional advice and treatment


Crisis Resources

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