DepressionDepression is an insidious condition that can damage and ruin lives, and it is a problem that the elderly are particularly susceptible to. Rates of depression in the elderly are extremely high, with over a quarter of all retirement-age people suffering from the condition.

Depression is also strongly linked to physical illness. Older people who suffer from two or more physical health conditions are seven times more likely to develop depression, and depression itself increases mortality rates in the over 65s by close to seventy per cent.

Tackling depression in the elderly is important for their wellbeing, and the fact that we live in a country with a rapidly ageing population makes the situation even worse. Sadly, it seems that depression is actually underdiagnosed in the elderly, mainly because people seem to believe that some of the symptoms of depression such as supressed appetite, lack of physical activity, lack of enjoyment in life and so on, are simply part of getting old.

Knowing how to help an elderly relative or friend who you think is suffering from depression can be difficult. Because depression is such a debilitating condition it’s vital that you encourage them to seek help from a professional. Talking to their GP is the first step as they can make a proper diagnosis and then offer treatment options.

Depression can be caused by physical problems, and tackling these issues will help alleviate the symptoms. However the cause of the depression could be something psychological in nature. If the person has suffered a bereavement, which becomes more common as we age, then this can have a devastating impact on their mental wellbeing. Overcoming this kind of loss isn’t easy, and although anti-depressants may help with the symptoms they won’t tackle the underlying cause.

If you want to help try to spend some time with them on a regular basis and letting them talk to you. Just being a friendly ear can make a vast improvement. Many older people lead isolated lives and having someone to share their burdens with can help. Socialising has been shown to make big improvements in individuals suffering from mild to moderate depression.

Many doctors are now prescribing exercise therapy for people with moderate levels of depression. Because exercise has been proven to be beneficial in improving mood and tackling depression it can be very helpful to encourage the individual to engage in regular exercise. You could take them for a daily walk, or perhaps for a swim a few times a week. They will need support, particularly early on, but the improvement in their mood can often be quite rapid. Make sure they choose an activity they enjoy and don’t find too taxing as you don’t want them to become discouraged too easily.

If you think someone close to you is suffering from depression, don’t just put it down to the effects of ageing. Reach out to them and help them overcome their problems, and as always be sure to seek advice from medical professionals if you’re concerned for your loved one’s safety.

This information was provided by Hallmark Care Homes.