Elderly depression, also known as geriatric depression is a condition that is affecting millions of senior citizens across the world. Here in Australia, statistics show that the condition has risen tremendously over the last few years. In fact, 2017 research by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW)shows that 1 in 7 people aged 65 and above were depressed. Medical experts have identified physical illnesses as one of the main contributing factors.
Unfortunately, most people do not understand that depression and anxiety in the elderly is a genuine health condition. That is why most of the senior citizens end up struggling with this disorder alone. In this article, we are going to look at some of the major causes, symptoms, prevention, and how the Australian government is tackling the problem.
Causes of Elderly Depression
There is no single cause of depression in the elderly. However, medical has identified some of the major factors contributing to the increase of geriatric depression. According to various studies, most of these causes can be categorised as social, psychological, and biological factors. Here are the main factors that may contribute to elderly depression:
- Low level of neurotransmitter chemicals in the brain. For the brain to function optimally, it requires adequate amounts of norepinephrine and serotonin and other neurotransmitter chemicals. If the level of these chemicals is reducing (which is common with age), then the patient is likely to experience depression.
- Family History. There are medical conditions that runs through the family, and depression is one of them. So if a person comes from a family that has a history of depression, they are likely to suffer the same fate.
- Traumatic life events. People who have experienced traumatic experiences such as the death of loved ones, accidents, chronic diseases such as cancer, and so on, their prevalence of depression is very high.
- The transition to retirement. Most of the senior citizens being laid off from works find it very to adapt to the new life. Imagine a person that has been employed from their early twenties, and now they have to adapt to a new life. Some of the retirees are unable to accept or adapt to this change.
- Financial hardships. Old age comes with limited financial opportunity. Most of the senior citizens are not working anymore, and thus, they have to rely entirely on their retirement pay. If they have been used to living large, then financial hardships can cause depression.
- Fear death as they get older
- Chronic or severe pain
- Living in isolation
Symptoms Of Elderly Depression
Depression can be identified in various ways, but the major depressive episode takes about two weeks. During this period, the patient experiences depressed moods almost every day or most of the day. They may also lose interest in almost all activities and so on. Note that depression affects how people thinks, acts, and feel, and that’s why changes in character can be a sign. Some of the common symptoms of depression include:
- Feeling down and miserable
- Loss of interest in usual activities
- Moodiness and irritability
- Negative comments such ‘it’s my fault,’ ‘I’m useless.’
- Frequent thoughts of death
- Loss of self-esteem
- Bring confused
- Behaving out of character
- Suicidal thoughts
These are just some of the common symptoms of depression in the elder. You can check more symptoms here. It is also important to note that people react differently to depression, and thus, symptoms might vary from one patient to the other.
Prevention of Depression
Everyone is a candidate for depression, especially as we get older. Although elderly depression can be treated, prevention is the best route to go. Like most of the lifestyle and chronic condition, there are many ways that they can be prevented. The earlier the problem is detected, the better. Here are the best ways that you can prevent depression as you get older.
- Build strong relationships. One of the biggest reasons why people get depressed is the lack of people around them. Loneliness makes the condition worse and makes things happen very rapidly. Having people around you is good for your mental health. They help you get distracted from depressing thoughts. They also help to identify the problem at an early stage where it is immediately treated.
- Talk to people you trust. One of the best ways to relieving depressing thoughts is by talking about the problem. However, you need to talk to people you trust only. That is why it recommended that you surround yourself with trustworthy friends who can help you deal with the problem. People who listen and be ready to help you. Talk to them about what you are feeling, and you will feel lighter. With time, the thing will just go away.
- Seek professional help. If you think you are depressed and have no one to speak to, seek professional help. Book a session with a psychologist to help you deal with the problem. These are professionals who have been trained to help people with mental conditions. They help you not only deal with the problem but also treat the condition.
- Regular Exercises. Staying idle is one of the major factors that cause elderly depression. Have a regular exercise program to keep yourself busy and distracted from depressing thoughts. You can walk, run, or any other activity that will keep you active. Exercises not only help you prevent depression but also treat it. Pick exercises that you like.
These are just a few ways that you can prevent depression in the elderly. There are other ways such as avoiding social media, eating at regular intervals, avoiding alcohol, getting plenty of sleep, eating well, and amongst others.
How The Government Of Australia Is Tackling Elderly Depression
With the worrying rise of elderly depression in Australia, the government has taken measures to tackle this problem. As early is 2017, the Federal Government’s National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) partnered with Beyond Blue to research on the best ways to prevent depression in the elderly. The partnership led to the opening of Targeted Call for Research (TCR), to study elderly depression and provide solutions. The government has also improved the conditions of aged care facilities by training more staff who understand the needs of the elderly.
In addition, the government’s national mental health policies and strategies have helped a great deal to tackle mental disorders. From these policies, the federal government and all states and territories are responsible for mental health policy as well as the provision of support services for the elderly Australians struggling with depression and other mental conditions. Lastly, the budget funding innovative ways of addressing depression and anxiety in senior citizens have been increasing over the years.