Depression and the older adult

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Courtesy of the CSU Cooperative Extension Office, Nutrition News

Volume 3, Issue 9

Depression in the older adult population can sometimes be confused with normal age-related changes, such as appetite loss, decreased physical activity, stooped posture and disrupted sleep patterns. Many times, individuals who are depressed either do not recognize the symptoms or they refrain from sharing their feelings with others.

Although physical illness and depression can occur at the same time, it is even harder to accurately diagnose depression. It is important that depression be diagnosed because if it remains untreated it can get worse and/or complicate a coexisting medical problem.

There is no single sign of depression. The main features of depression are persistent sadness that may last for two weeks or more, accompanied by changes in the person's usual patters, behaviors or moods. One or more symptoms often accompany feelings of sadness or behavior changes.

Signs and symptoms that may accompany depression include:

n Physical - Aches and pains, weight changes, appetite changes, fatigue, lack of energy, changes in sleeping patterns

n Emotional - Anxiety, feelings of emptiness, apathy, crying

n Thought - Hopelessness, pessimism, feelings of helplessness, excessive guilt, memory or concentration problems

n Behavioral - Loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities, neglect of appearance or hygiene, difficulty with ordinary daily tasks, withdrawal from people, increased drug or alcohol use, pacing, irritability, hostility, agitation.

The more you can observe and be aware of the signs of depression, the more likely you are to help someone you know or yourself seek professional treatment for depression.

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