Clinical depression affects an estimated 6 million Americans over 65, and as we age, it’s important to understand how to recognize depression in senior citizens.
Depression may occur naturally or as a side effect of medical conditions and medications, and with a diverse set of symptoms, it may manifest as sadness, loss of appetite, insomnia, lethargy or unexplained aches and pains. It’s important to note that depression may not always cause sadness, but other mood disturbances like anger, annoyance or boredom.
At Friendship at Home, we believe everyone should enjoy a long, happy and healthy retirement from the comfort of their own home. Here are a couple of tips our team compiled to help recognize and manage clinical depression in seniors:
Check With Your Doctor
Scheduling an appointment with your family physician is the most direct method to understanding and managing depression. Trained professionals understand the illness, can prescribe antidepressant medications and refer patients to resources like counselors and support groups. Preparing to have an open and honest discussion with your doctor can make all the difference.
Social isolation is a common symptom of depression that exacerbates feelings of loneliness and sorrow. By reconnecting with others through community organizations, lunch with friends or calling family members on the phone, maintaining social connections reduces social isolation and improves mood. Research also shows socialization has an array of other health benefits including improved immune system function and lowered risk of dementia.
Eat Right and Exercise
Maintaining healthy habits like eating well and exercising both prevents depression and helps those suffering recover from it. Regular cardiovascular exercise like walking, cycling, and swimming boosts feel-good hormones called endorphins and can be just as effective as antidepressant medications. A healthy diet that’s low in red meats and sugar but high in fruits and vegetables can also positively affect mood.
Taking a walk outside or sitting in the park also helps negate the symptoms of depression. Sunlight exposure is linked to the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of well-being, and vitamin D, a vitamin linked to bone health. Getting between five to 15 minutes of direct exposure to sunlight every day is enough to increase serotonin and vitamin D production in the body, and help combat depression.