According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 20 percent of people over the age of 55 experience some form of mental health condition, such as anxiety, bipolar disorder, cognition issues and depression.
Depression is the most common and also very treatable. Unfortunately, the elderly are often resistant to seeking treatment because of past stigma around receiving mental health care.
Symptoms of depression include
- Trouble concentrating;
- Trouble sleeping;
- A change in appetite;
- Loss of interest or enthusiasm in previously enjoyed activities;
- Feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, and worthlessness or guilt, and
Suicidal thoughts can also occur as well. Sometimes, the elderly might not complain of feeling sad, but may become irritable or complain of physical ailments. If symptoms last longer than two weeks, then consider seeking treatment.
Depression is not a normal part of aging, however, the elderly are at an increased risk for it. Sometimes life events may predispose them to experiencing depression: loss of a loved one or of one’s independence, an unexpected move, medical conditions, and long term caregiving are often components that underlie depression. Treatment options such as medicine and counseling are available; one should begin by consulting their primary care physician.
Alexis Ressler, APRN, is a nurse practitioner in Neurology at the University of Vermont Medical Center. Her areas of expertise include geriatric psychiatry, memory loss, and mood and anxiety disorders.