You may be familiar with the old song, “Enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think.” In asking individuals if they feel they are depressed, I have often heard “I’m not sure how I would know.” Depression in older adults must first be diagnosed as the root of the issue, then can be addressed appropriately.
How Can I Tell if I’m Depressed?
It is not unusual for any of us to allow signs of depression to go unnoticed in ourselves as we age. Sometimes changes happen gradually and we may feel we are no different than ever. Some individuals may not want to admit feeling depressed, thinking “I should be able to deal with this myself.” Asking the following questions may be helpful in deciding if you are depressed and may need to seek some additional support.
- Have I lost interest in doing things I used to enjoy?
- Am I having trouble with falling asleep, or waking in the night? Am I sleeping unusually large amounts of time?
- Do I find I don’t have an appetite? Or am I overeating much more recently?
- Do I have thoughts that I am a failure, or that I’m letting myself or someone else down?
- Do I have trouble concentrating?
- Am I moving or speaking very slowly? Or am I restless and anxious?
- Have I been unusually irritable recently?
- Do I feel hopeless, or find I don’t care if I live or if I die?
Signs of Depression in Older Adults
As we age, we may find we have more reasons for being depressed. We may experience health problems, loss of friends or family members, or have feelings of less purpose in our lives. But it is possible to take steps to rid ourselves of these feelings and begin to enjoy life again.
- First, talk to your physician; have a physical if you haven’t had one in recent years. Be honest in talking to your doctor about how you are feeling.
- Make an effort to connect with other people. Make a list of friends that would be happy to get a phone call from you.
- Try to increase your physical activity. Take a walk down the hall or outside, do some stretching while watching TV or some other light exercises to get started.
- Take pride in each accomplishment, each day. Pat yourself on the back for taking that walk no matter how short or long, for making your bed, for doing a load of laundry, or writing a letter.
- Try to go to bed, get up, and eat meals at regular times each day.
- Learn a new skill or be creative. Join a Yoga group, quilting group, or take up gardening.
- Color with your grandchildren. Spending time with those we love, especially children, can often lift spirits and help focus on happiness.
- Become a volunteer. Helping others may help you feel about yourself and serve to motivate you to get out of bed and get active.
Taking Action Against Depression
We all need other people in our lives. If you do not have someone with whom you can discuss your thoughts and feelings, consider talking to a social worker, counselor or clergy person. Support groups can be very helpful and may help a person to realize there are many people who have a need for some extra help in getting through the difficulties in life.
Your doctor may recommend a medication to help with the process of feeling better. Medication for treatment of depression in older adults can be highly successful.
Anything that can help in lifting those overwhelming, heavy feelings is certainly worth a try to get a person started towards enjoying life again!
Find more health & wellness tips like these on Bethesda’s blog.