Depression in the Aging Population

In a recent study, the US Department of Health and Human Services claimed that over 20 percent of the 65+ population are, to some degree, battling with depression. This phenomenon is closely linked with an injury or an illness that has resulted in the hospitalization or other loss of freedom by the individual, causing great suffering for the individual. .

Depression must be made distinct from occasional “blue” feelings. Feeling like you’re “down” or “in a funk” every so often, for an unexplained or trivial reason, that is not depression, it is a normal part of an emotionally healthy person. However, depression is a clinical condition in which a person experiences a deep feeling of hopelessness, loss of motivation, and self-confidence that is all encompassing and affects their daily life. Additionally, severe depression is maladaptive, meaning that the depression impedes the patient’s way of life. For example, a patient experiencing depression may stay in bed for days on end. In this scenario, clinical intervention is required and may include the prescription of emotionally balancing medication.

There are five main reasons why our beloved elderly family members may experience depression:

  1. Chronic pain or illness
  2. Loss of mobility
  3. Reaction to an illness
  4. Side effect of medication
  5. Frustration with memory loss


Depression shows itself differently with each person. Women have a greater risk of having depression than men. Very often women gain or lose weight and deprive themselves of sleep. Men, on the other hand, tend to be more aggressive, violent and reckless. Furthermore, men have a higher suicide rate.


Usually depression is difficult to identify in the elderly population; consequently, many elderly people suffering from depression are left untreated. Contrary to populat belief, depression is not part of the normal aging process. Many seniors and their family members do not recognize the signs of depression and are unaware that is a medical illness that must be medically treated. It is natural to feel sadness, or hopelessness during major life changes; however, depression is a mental disorder that continues for prolonged amounts of time. Depression requires a combination of therapy and medication to reduce the intensity and length of the disorder.


There is far more suicide in the elderly population then there is in the general population. Fortunately, the treatment for elderly depression is good. Once diagnosed, 80% of depressed population can be treated effectively. Psychsocial treatment plays an extremely important role in the treatment of elderly patients.


Here are three activities to help the elderly patient out of depression:

  1. Play music around the person as a way to distract and relax them
  2. Create a fixed schedule for friends or neighbors to bring over their pets
  3. Help the person with grow and watch over a plant


Caregiver skills that are essential for helping the elderly patient thrive with depression include:

  • Listening
  • Patience
  • Lack of judgement
  • Acknowledging the patients sadness
  • Empathizing with the patient

A strong support system from both the family and the caregiver is crucial for the person’simprovement and well-being. A combination of love, support and understanding and medical treatment can help the person overcome their depression.

Bienstock, Estee, R.N. “Depression in The Elderly.” N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Apr. 2014.

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