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Depression Among Older Americans

Watch for these signs to prevent clinical depression in a loved one

En español | Depression in older people is understandable, but certainly not inevitable. Sad events — the loss of a spouse, fragile health and transitioning away from the working world — can take their toll. Some sense of melancholy after such events is normal. But if your parent feels more than just blue and it lasts for a long time, it may be clinical depression.

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Depression among seniors can be common- AARP Caregiving Resource Center tips about treating depression

Photo by Red Chopsticks/Getty Images

Recognizing the signs of depression in a loved one early is key to the successful initiation of a treatment strategy.

More common — and more dangerous — among older people

As the brain ages, the supply of blood and chemicals that affect mood changes, leaving older people more susceptible to depression. The condition can be serious: Those over 65 have the highest suicide rate.

Medicine and therapy can make a difference. Studies show that more than 80 percent of those with depression feel better with treatment. Talk to your loved one's doctor if you think he or she might benefit from medication or counseling.

Studies show that depression interacts with chronic pain in a vicious cycle of despair. Careful, monitored treatment with antidepressants can break the cycle, easing the pain and renewing an older parent's outlook on life.

Watch for these signs

Symptoms of clinical depression vary from one person to another, but doctors say to keep an eye out for five or more of these symptoms, especially if they persist for more than two weeks:

  • A persistent sad, anxious or empty mood
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions
  • Reduced appetite or weight loss or increased appetitive and weight gain
  • Fatigue or lack of energy
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities that once brought pleasure
  • Restlessness or irritability
  • Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, including headaches, chronic headaches, constipation or other digestive disorders
  • Feeling guilty, hopeless or worthless
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Also of interest: 10 medications that might get you down. »

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