Let me start by saying that depression is way more common that people realize. This is important, because chances are your aging loved one won’t even know whether they’re battling depression or not. I’ve seen it many times before. Even more upsetting is that when they do recognize that something is wrong they are too ashamed to tell anyone. So let me be clear, there is NO shame in suffering from depression. Today, let’s not just discuss the causes of depression, but the warning signs. Perhaps if we learn to see it coming we can put practical tools in place to help deal with depression that our loved one can access early on to lessen the damaging effects.
Causes of Depression In Aging Adults
As we all age, there are different challenges we must face that will leave us susceptible to depression. Think about it. The things we love to do may get physically more difficult. Perhaps, we suffer from health problems. What happens when our children move away? There’s divorce, financial uncertainty in retirement, the loss of friends and loved ones, loneliness and isolation. All of these experiences can cause depression in aging adults. Right now your mom, dad or favorite aunt and uncle could be showing the warning signs, but our busy lifestyle makes it very challenging to notice.
It’s normal to feel sad when things change or God forbid something bad happens. After a period of feeling down, most people can usually adjust and regain their emotional balance. Someone who is suffering from clinical depression doesn’t get over those feelings. Without help, the symptoms might last for weeks, months or even years.
Ok, let’s get to it. Here are the things you can look out for, that will tell you if an aging loved one is in danger of slipping into depression.
- An “empty” feeling
- Ongoing sadness and anxiety
- Tiredness or lack of energy
- Loss of interest or pleasure in everyday activities, including sex
- Sleep problems, including trouble getting to sleep, very early morning waking, and sleeping too much
- Eating more or less than usual
- Crying too often or too much
- Aches and pains that don’t go away when treated
- Difficulty focusing, remembering or making decisions
- Feeling guilty, helpless, worthless or hopeless
- Thoughts of death or suicide
- A suicide attempt
These signs will not always be out in front and easy to recognize. A depressed person may appear to feel better or even normal while interacting with others. You may have to ask some questions and pay very close attention to how your loved one answers. It is incumbent upon us to be the first line of defense against this illusive condition. To that end, don’t be fooled. Symptoms of depression can seem to go away, but they always, always come back if the underlying problem is not addressed.
Depression Is Overlooked
The nature of depression in aging adults make it more challenging to diagnose than in younger adults. The signs are much more varied making it tricky to recognize the condition and differentiate it from others. Here’s an example; depression can seem like extreme fatigue, which is stereotypically associated with the aging process. Confusion and attention problems caused by depression can sometimes look like Alzheimer’s or other brain disorders.
Something else to be very aware of are medications that aging adults must take. Mood changes and signs of depression can even be caused by medicines for arthritis, high blood pressure or heart disease. It’s a very good idea to talk to your aging loved one’s doctors and ask how his or her medications might be affecting them emotionally. Pay particular attention when there are multiple medications from multiple doctors. Why? They may not be aware that your loved one is being prescribed other meds and therefore can’t safeguard against the dangers of mixing them.
Depression is a complex challenge, but with proper awareness and treatment it can be managed successfully. The best advice I can give is to spend time with your aging loved ones. This act of kindness alone might be the thing wards off the blues that will lead to something much worse.
Now, if you are a Real Estate professional in this space or you’d just like to work with the above 50 market in any capacity, I’ve got great news. I will be teaching a Senior Real Estate Specialist designation course coming in January 2018 so save the date and reach out to me at toni(at)tonipatillo(dotted)com for updates.