Depression in Older Adults
If you are having any symptoms or have any questions, please call 811 to speak with a registered nurse 24 hours a day.
Get emergency care if you or a loved one has serious thoughts of suicide or harming others.
Is depression a normal part of growing older?
Depression is not a normal part of growing older, but it is common in adults who are 65 years of age or older. Retirement, health problems, and the loss of loved ones are things that happen to older adults. Feeling sad at these times is normal. But if these feelings persist and keep you from your usual activities, you should contact your healthcare provider.
Why does depression often go undiagnosed in older adults?
In older adults, it can be hard to tell the difference between depression and illnesses such as dementia. Also, older adults may not talk to their healthcare providers or caregivers about their sad or anxious feelings because they are embarrassed. But depression is nothing to be embarrassed about. It is not a personal weakness. It’s a medical illness that can be treated.
How are the symptoms of depression different for older adults?
In addition to the standard emotional and physical symptoms of depression, older adults who are depressed may also experience:
- Delusions or hallucinations
- Feelings of boredom or worthlessness
- Memory problems or confusion
- Withdrawal from social activities
I’m caring for an older adult. When should I contact my loved one’s healthcare provider?
If you are caring for an older adult, tell your loved one’s healthcare provider about any new symptoms or changes in behavior that concern you or may be due to depression. The healthcare provider may:
- Ask you and other family members questions.
- Do some tests to rule out other medical problems.
- Talk with your relative.
- Want to know what medicines your loved one takes.
Diagnosis and treatment of your relative’s depression can help decrease their risk for cognitive decline, other illnesses, and suicide.
What can be done to help depression in older adults?
Treatment of depression in older adults is often exactly the same as treatment for all other individuals.
Many older adults take prescription medicines to treat other health conditions. If one of these medicines might be causing the depression, the healthcare provider will probably switch that medicine.
If you are caring for an older adult who is depressed, the healthcare provider may also have some advice for you and other family members and caregivers on how to cope. They may recommend support groups that can help you.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Mental Health Mobile Crisis Line (Nova Scotia)
Toll Free, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week 1-888-429-8167
Island Helpline (Prince Edward Island)
Toll free, 24 hours a day 1-800-218-2885
Canadian Coalition for Senior’s Mental Health
Public Health Agency of Canada
Canadian Mental Health Association
Depression in Older Persons Fact Sheet by National Alliance on Mental Illness (04/12/12, http://www.nami.org/Template.cfm?Section=By_Illness&template=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=7515)
Depression – elderly by U.S. National Library of Medicine (04/12/12, http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001521.htm)