Depression among older adults could reflect a basic health condition

CLINIC AS MORE: My mother is 84 and she is still living at home. Over the past few months she has been sleeping more and she is not a lot of energy or desire. She is thinking highly if she is depressed, but she has never had depression before. Could this be a problem, or should we be concerned about something else that causes its symptoms? Should she see her doctor about this?

ANSWER: It would be good for your mother to see her healthcare provider at this time. Their symptoms may be related to depression, or they may indicate another underlying health condition. Either way, evaluation will probably help to reveal the source of the problem, and treatment may help it to feel better.

Depression is a pest disorder that causes ongoing feelings of sadness, as well as other symptoms, such as too little or too little sleep, lack of energy and lack of appetite. Although your mother's depression is not advance, it is certain that depression can be developed first by her age. Depression is not a normal occurrence, and the possible symptoms need to be addressed.

Depression is often not diagnosed and abused later in life, and some older adults may be reluctant to seek help. Depression in this age group can be more challenging to diagnose because the symptoms tend to be different or less in older adults than those younger. For example, it is much more common for people later in life with only physical symptoms of depression without being sad or low mood.

Different changes occur as people get older, depressing them more than they were in their younger years. The most common pain is chronic pain that arises due to health conditions such as osteoarthritis. The toll that chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer can have a person's daily life can take on the development of depression.

Another factor that could contribute to depression later in life is the struggle that many people face with changes in their identity, their roles and their social groups that come with age. People who have always been productive, responsible, active members of their communities and their families can be feeling unwanted or no longer valued. Deaths of friends and family can lead to a sense of sadness and loss, as well as reducing opportunities for increasing social interaction and isolation.

However, before your mother is subjected to symptoms of depression, it is important to see that her healthcare provider would be assessed for other underlying medical issues that could create her symptoms. The common health concerns among older adults that may cause the symptoms of your mother are anemia, urinary tract infections, thyroid problems, chronic pain or even malnutrition. In some cases, certain medications can contribute to depression symptoms, so it is worth reviewing your mother's current medicines.

If no underlying medical condition is found and your mother is diagnosed with depression, there are a number of treatment options available, including medication and psychotherapy. Healthy lifestyle choices, such as regular exercise, good sleep habits, social interaction and a balanced diet could also be helpful. – Janette Leal, M.D., Psychiatry, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.

Mayo Clinic is an educational resource in Mayo Clinic and is not a substitute for regular medical care. Send a question to MayoClinicQ&A@mayo.edu. For more information, visit mayoclinic.org.

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