Depression in the elderly is a common problem  that is recently getting more attention from healthcare professionals.  Illness, diminished physical mobility and decreasing quality of life can take an emotional toll on older people that sometimes makes them feel that life isn’t worth living.  The loss of spouse and friends can also contribute to feelings of loneliness and hopelessness that are hard to shake. Research shows that depression can also worsen medical conditions and contribute to increased dementia. Finding the right solutions for older people can help to increase their well-being and their overall health.

Problems of Diagnosing Depression

Diagnosing depression in the elderly can be difficult for a number of reasons:

  • Many older people grew up in an age in which depression and other mental health problems were not well understood or admitted.
  • Depression can cause many of the same symptoms as dementia, such as memory problems, sluggish speech, slow movements and lack of motivation. Dementia can also complicate communication with the elder about their thoughts and emotions.
  • Side effects from medications used to treat medical conditions can cause depression.
  • Loss of a spouse or loved can cause grief, which can have similar symptoms, yet is very different to depression.
  • Some illnesses, such as Parkinson’s disease, cancer, heart disease, diabetes and vitamin deficiencies can cause depression. Good management of the health problem can often relieve the depression.

Symptoms of Depression in the Elderly

The symptoms of depression can be subtle or very noticeable:

  • Aches and pains that do not correspond with any illness or injury
  • Persistent feelings of helplessness or hopelessness
  • Memory problems
  • Chronic anxiety and worrying
  • Irritability
  • Slowed speech or movements
  • Neglect of personal grooming, eating or taking medication
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or socializing
  • Increased use of alcohol

Medications That Can Help

Antidepressants can be as effective in older people as they are in younger patients. However, a lower dose may be necessary, and special care should be given to ensure there are no interactions with other drugs the individual may be taking. Serotonin reuptake inhibitors, such as citralopram, escitalopram and sertraline have good safety records for use by the elderly.  Other antidepressants such as buproprion, mirlazapine, moclobemide and venlafaxine have all been found to be safe. However, these medications may take longer to work. Unpleasant side effects that may occur can be eliminated by trying another type of medication.

Other Options For Treatment

If antidepressant drugs are not medically appropriate for the elderly individual, a number of other options can help to relieve symptoms and allow him or her to enjoy life more:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids can help to relieve depression or boost the effects of antidepressants.
  • St. John’s wort is an herbal supplement that has been found to relieve the symptoms of mild depression.
  • SAMe is another type of supplement used to treat symptoms of depression.
  • Psychological counseling or therapy may be needed for some elders with depression.
  • Support groups can help to express feelings and offer encouragement to elders with depression.

Recognizing depression in older people can be a critical factor in helping these individuals to feel better both emotionally and physically.


Baxter Senior Living is a Senior Housing Community that will be located in Anchorage, Alaska off of Baxter Road. If you are seeking Anchorage Senior Housing, or Assisted Living Facilities in Alaska please contact us today to make your reservations. (907) 891-9696 or fill out our contact form and we will be in touch! contact us