According to the CDC, Depression is the most common psychiatric illness faced by seniors, with 19% of older adults suffering from it. However, despite its high treatability, two thirds of those seniors suffering do not receive necessary treatment.
Depression interferes with social interactions, as well as activities of daily living, and symptoms can last for prolonged periods of time. When broken down by age, ethnicity and gender, the most likely individuals to attempt and die by suicide in the United States, are white males over the age of 65. According to the CDC, on average, an elderly person dies by suicide every 1 hour and 37 minutes. Of seniors who die this way, 20% had seen a doctor the same day, 40% within a week and 70% in the same month, this clearly demonstrates missed opportunities for intervention and help.
Untreated depression also has profound effects on physical health, lowering immunity and compromising an individual’s ability to overcome infections. It is linked to a variety of illnesses, such as heart disease and sufferers use more medications, visit doctors and hospitals far more frequently than healthy individuals and stays are much longer (CDC).
There is not one set nationwide strategy for dealing with depression in older adults and thus care can differ widely depending on where an individual is located. At a most basic level, individuals have access to some treatment but many are not aware they qualify, or cannot afford associated costs. Significant barriers exist in the form of stigma and a lack of knowledge, with many individuals perceiving depression as a normal part of aging or untreatable. These issues will only worsen as our population continues to age, particularly as the Baby Boom cohort are showing signs of depressive disorders in far higher numbers than previous generations.
A good overview of depression in older adults.
Here are important signs and symptoms of depression to keep a look out for.
Causes and help for depression in seniors.
Here are seven ways to help someone suffering from depression and ways to help yourself.
Coping with depression during the holiday season.
If you believe your loved one is at an immediate risk for suicide, do NOT leave the person alone.
In the U.S., dial 911 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK.