As Mental Illness Awareness Week approaches in the first full week of October, it is important to recognize the warning signs for depression in senior adults. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), depression affects 6.5 million people who are 65 and older. Some of these people have had chronic issues with depression across their lifetimes, but for others, the first onset of depression can be during the senior years. Loss of independence, loss of a spouse, chronic illness, decreased mobility and activity, and decreased socialization are challenges many older adults face as part of the aging process. While losses are often part of aging, depression should not be accepted as part of aging.
According to NAMI, warning signs for depression may include:
- memory problems
- social withdrawal
- loss of appetite
- weight loss
- vague complaints of pain
- inability to sleep
- delusions (fixed false beliefs)
If you or a loved one are experiencing these symptoms, consult with your physician immediately. It is also important to note that certain medications may increase the risk of depression or cause similar symptoms; and some illnesses, such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s Disease, can cause symptoms similar to those associated with depression. Therefore, regular check-ups and consulting your physician regarding changes in your day to day functioning and/or mood is important.