The Effects of Depression in Elderly

How does depression impact the elderly, and which treatments may help? While some mental health conditions such as anorexia nervosa are far more common in girls and young women, depression may strike a person at any age regardless of gender from childhood or adolescence right through to those well into their retirement years. Elderly and Depression can go hand in hand.

elderly and depression cover photo

How Does Depression Affect The Elderly

As with childhood depression, a depressive illness may impact those in later life in different ways and may also be triggered by various factors.

Understanding Depression in the Elderly

In old age, men are more prone to developing symptoms of depressive illness. Diagnosing the condition in the elderly is more complicated, as many other forms of illness may involve similar symptoms, including Alzheimer’s Disease, repetitive small strokes, and an underactive thyroid. The latter is a very significant issue, as approximately one in every ten people over the age of 60 will suffer from an abnormal thyroid.

M. Lurie, author of Depression: Your Questions Answered, also indicates that sleeping difficulties can have a significant impact on elderly people who are suffering from depression.

Causes of Depression in Old Age

Causes of depression in old age often relate to loss. They may include the following factors: loss of independence, loss of a partner, loss of mobility, loss of one’s home, difficulty coping with sheltered accommodation, social isolation, dementia, and feeling a burden to others. Some sufferers may wish to be with their loved ones and feel that their time is up.

Elderly and Depression

Another issue is that an older adult may gradually become too unwell to swallow or chew food properly, and this may rob them of one of their remaining pleasures in life.

How Diet Can Affect Depression?

Depression can be affected by many issues. Another aspect you may not be considering is their diet. In fact, there have been studies that show that diet can directly be related to depression in many ways. Here are a few of those ways and what you can do to avoid them in the future.

Food Coloring

You may not think about food coloring as an issue, but it can cause major issues with their body. There have been many studies showing that certain food dyes and colorings, even natural ones, can cause ongoing depression-related symptoms.

The artificial and natural food colorings can cause fatigue, slowed circulation, or emotional issues. In fact, there are some research studies that point to food coloring as a contributing factor in sensory processing disorders and other related emotional issues in adults and children.

If they eat a lot of snack food or processed foods, they are ingesting food coloring and it can relate to their depression. Avoid processed foods and try clean eating diets as an alternative.

High Sugar Levels

When one ingests foods that contain a high sugar content, they are running the risk of several depression-related issues. This is primarily due to how sugar works in the body. The immediate issue is when the sugar works through the system.

It can give one a boost of energy, but when it fades from their system they are left feeling sluggish and tired. Long-term effects can lead to obesity or a dependency on the sugar content and the crash that follows.

The crash from the sugar will lead to depression due to the fatigue it may cause. If they need something sweet to combat a craving, consider going with a natural fruit instead.

Reduced Vitamins and Minerals

The leading factor that connects diet and depression is the reduced amount of vitamins and minerals in their system. If one had a poor diet then they are likely to eat foods that have a high amount of dyes or carbs.

They are filling, but they may not contain the vitamins and minerals the body needs to keep functioning. If one has a lack of vitamins and minerals on an ongoing basis, then they will notice that their body is not functioning properly and will lead to health issues that include depression. They can avoid this by having a juice, smoothie, or vitamin-enriched meal each day.

Though they may not want to, or feel the need to, change their entire diet all the time there are some small changes presented here that can help to reduce their depression. Give each one a try, or try them all, to see which ones or combination of diet changes work best for them.

Sometimes it helps to track it all

We have a free printable sheet for you to try and figure out if there is an actual pattern to what is going on.

How to Help a Loved One With Their Depression

It is hard enough when you have your own depression, but it can be even more difficult when someone you love has it. This is especially difficult if you don’t personally have much experience with it. The following tips are going to help you help your loved one with depression.

Know What to Say

First of all, it helps to know what is appropriate to say to someone who is dealing with depression. Your words can actually make a large impact, helping them to feel better or for worse. When you know someone with depression, just let them know they are not alone.

Don’t presume to know what they are going through, but be present and offer your help with whatever they need. Tell them they are important to you and that their life is important. This is crucial for someone with severe depression who has suicidal tendencies.

Know What Not to Say

You should also be careful to avoid certain words that can trigger someone with depression. Never assume they don’t feel how they say they feel. Depression is a complicated illness that is very hard for others to understand. Never make assumptions or hint that it is all in their head.

Don’t assume you know what it’s like if you really don’t, and don’t try to tell them just to be positive or see the bright side of things.

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Encourage Them to Seek Treatment

This is one of the more difficult things to do because someone with depression might not seek treatment on their own. You should approach them gently without making them feel crazy, but just let them know you are there to help.

If you want your loved ones to get treatment, explain that it could help them feel better and stop feeling so miserable. Help them make an appointment with their doctor, as many people with depression will never take this step on their own. Let them know you will be there with them, even going to each appointment if that is what they need.

Be the Person They Turn to

For someone you are close to who is suffering from depression, what they really need is someone to talk to and lean on. This doesn’t require a lot on your part other than being there for them and never judging how they think or feel.

When to See a Doctor For Depression

Depression is an issue that may have bothered them for several years. They may think that it was something they could handle with methods like journaling, supplements, or diet changes. Though this may work in some cases, there are cases where it does not work and the depression becomes worse.

If this is the case, you may be wondering when it is time to break down and see a doctor for their depression. Here are some points that may be ideal to see a doctor and what you need to know about each one.

Natural is Not Working

When their depression issues first started, you probably hoped that over-the-counter and natural options would work. You may have tried supplements for example. For awhile the supplements may have helped, but over time you may have had to up the dosage or the frequency to get the same amount of help that they first received.

If this sounds like your situation, then you need to go to a doctor. The reason is that supplements will help mild depression issues, but if there are more deep-rooted issues, they may not offer any help or very little.

You may also be treating a form of depression that is not diagnosed and your treatment is not accurate for your particular form of depression.

Depression and Suicidal Thoughts

One issue that can make depression a dangerous situation for you is when their depression turns to suicidal thoughts. As these thoughts become increasingly longer, more often, and more controlling you end up putting your life at risk.

This is the time that you need to seek a doctor for assistance. They can help you with a treatment plan and counseling option to help curb the thoughts and keep them at bay while working on their depression and anxiety as a whole. If the suicidal thoughts are too drastic, make sure that you seek an emergency clinic or hospital for assistance.

Depression and Self Harm Issues

When you hear about self-harm, you may think about someone cutting themselves. Though this is the most common form of self-harm and depression-related self-harm behavior, it is not the only one.

There are also issues with self-harm that can involve drugs, drinking, and can even go so far as to include ongoing harmful behavior. These issues all fall under self-harm and are generally done to help someone get over the pain and feel a different pain or release.

If they are doing this, and find it is their only source of release, you need to get them to a doctor.

Remember, there are different types of depression and each one has a different type of treatment plan. Be open to the fact that you may have a different form of depression than you thought. Be open to the treatment plans you are offered. This is a learning process and treatment process that needs time to take hold.

Treatment of Depression in the Elderly

Depressive illness in the elderly is often viewed as rather complicated in terms of treatment. Many older people who, in addition, are suffering from dementia, may struggle to cope with a medication regime. Although in nursing homes, the common symptom of sleep difficulties may be addressed through prescribing sleeping tablets.

This age-group is often recognized as being less likely to accept a diagnosis of depression and accept treatment. Perhaps this may be due to a misunderstanding of mental illness, and particularly those who have survived war may find it hard to accept that depression is a severe illness requiring treatment.

In A Practical Workbook For The Depressed Christian, Lockley recognizes that Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) may have a role in the treatment of depression in the elderly.

Some suggest that ECT actually can be an effective treatment for depression in elderly patients, particularly in cases where other treatments have failed. Specialist psychogeriatric units may also benefit those suffering from depression in addition to other forms of chronic illness.

As highlighted above, depression is recognized as the hardest to both diagnose and treat within the elderly. Therefore it is crucial that those involved in caring for the elderly such as relatives seek medical advice sooner rather than later upon noticing symptoms.

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