The more mature amongst us might like to think that a lifetime of experience has left us judicial and wise, but depression can be a sneaky adversary as we age. Between the common misconception that depressive symptoms are a feature of ageing and the issue of how often these symptoms can be mistaken for other ailments, people suffering from depression in later life can often be overlooked or may fail to recognise the nature of the problem themselves.
In the UK, depression affects roughly a quarter of the elderly population, but shockingly only 15% of sufferers seek help from the NHS. Symptoms such as fatigue, insomnia and low mood can be missed, or connected only with physical ailments such as arthritis. In reality, depression is a treatable condition that does not have to be accepted as a part of getting older. Let’s look at the symptoms to watch out for, looking at what to do if you suspect that you or a loved one may be suffering from depression, and lifestyle changes that anyone can make to keep depression at bay, both now and in the future.
- Feelings of sadness or hopelessness that don’t go away
- Difficulty concentrating
- An “empty” feeling
- A decline in short-term memory
- Irritability and anxiousness
- Changes in appetite
- Broken sleep, insomnia or on the flipside – sleeping too much
- Loss of motivation and enthusiasm
- A decrease in social interest
- Feeling worthless or guilty
- Having suicidal thoughts or a constant negative narrative in our minds
We all get down sometimes, especially when facing health problems or when grieving following the loss of a loved one. These lows can be very difficult to endure, but even in such hardship we should be able to find moments of joy, and usually, in time we begin to feel better. Sometimes periods of struggle can be a trigger for an episode of depression, and sometimes depression descends without any obvious trigger. When we get the sense that these negative feelings and symptoms just aren’t lifting, it is a sign that we should take action and seek help.
Speaking To A Doctor
When we suspect depression, it is always a good idea to speak with a doctor. They will want to know what symptoms you or your loved one are experiencing, how long they have been present, the severity of the symptoms and whether these symptoms have manifested before. The doctor will be able to advise you on the symptoms at hand and if you receive a diagnosis of depression, the doctor can talk you through the many options available to treat depression. These options could include a variety of different medications and therapies, as well as possible lifestyle changes.
A common symptom of depression is withdrawing from social contact, but paradoxically; giving in to this inclination is detrimental to our mental health. Connecting with others is crucial to our well-being! If your concern is for a loved one, make sure to visit them regularly and encourage other avenues of socialising. Fantastic options to consider include local social groups organised for older adults, joining an arts or crafts course or becoming a member of a local museum, exhibition centre or theatre.
Cultivate A Routine
Ageing adults tend not to need as much sleep or have as much of an appetite as they used to, but neglecting our body’s needs can exacerbate symptoms of depression. Establishing a self-care routine including nutritious, wholesome meals and an evening ritual that sees us hit the hay at the same time each day can go a long way to improving both sleep patterns and energy levels.
Stimulate Your Mind
Keeping our minds active and interested will boost our mood and keep our brains healthy for longer. Consider learning a new skill, training the mind through puzzles and games, and becoming active on social media where we can join discussions and debates about things that interest us. There are many useful crossovers to be found, such as beating insomnia with sudoku sessions and connecting with loved ones and old friends online.
Consider Getting A Pet
Sharing our lives with a pet reduces stress and anxiety symptoms, alleviates loneliness and boosts happiness. Sharing our home with a furry friend can add a routine to our days that would otherwise be missing, and get us moving when we at times don’t feel motivated to do something for ourselves.
Get Up And About
Exercise releases endorphins, the “feel good” hormones, and even a little bit of activity can help. Whether you go for a walk, join a gentle dance class, take up yoga, or develop a secret passion for Jane Fonda Workout DVDs, finding a way to keep moving that we enjoy is a wonderful way of improving our well-being!
Don’t Be Afraid To Talk
Often we feel we don’t want to bother others, which can be amplified by the feelings of guilt and worry that depression can bring, but reaching out to others and sharing when we feel down or have concerns about our health is always worth doing. Try your best to make regular check-ins with loved ones, and remember that feelings of depression are not something to battle with alone.