Recognising depression sounds like it would be easy. However, because every person is unique, that means depression can have different tell-tales depending on who is suffering from it. Sometimes the symptoms are bold and obvious, but other times they're subtle. Things that you wouldn't even notice, if you weren't looking for them. And where older people are concerned it can be doubly challenging, because the symptoms of depression could be easily confused for naturally occurring signs of getting older.
Depression is not a part of aging, though, and it's important for those who care for people in their twilight years to know the signs to look for.
Sign #1: Feelings of Irritability, or Anger
When people think of depression, the first image that comes to mind is sadness. People whose gaze seems to be turned inward toward some tragedy, making them unable to see what's happening in the here and now. And that can be a symptom of depression. However, so is anger and moodiness.
While the idea of the "grumpy old man" is ingrained into people as normal for seniors, there may be more going on just beneath the surface. Careful observation can be the key to separating someone who is naturally moody, from someone who's ill-tempered as a result of dealing with depression.
Sign #2: Negative Thoughts and Statements
Getting older comes with its share of regrets. People you've lost, opportunities never taken, etc. But when someone dwells on those negatives, and makes statements about themselves and their lives about how they wasted everything, or about how they're worthless, there may be more than the maudlin voice of old age talking. Loss of self-esteem, sharp personal criticism, and a focus on ones flaws to the exclusion of all else can be warning signs of depression in older people.
Sign #3: They're Tired All The Time
No one expects older people to be full of pep all the time, but if they're always tired and listless that can be a sign there's something going on. Older people who never seem to have any energy, who stay in bed for huge swaths of time, and who are easily exhausted may not just be dealing with symptoms of growing older. That may be a combination of the exhaustion, and the ennui, that comes with depression.
Sign #4: Unaccounted For Aches and Pains
Depression hurts, and not just mentally and emotionally. Those who suffer from depression often have unexplained aches and pains. Separating aches caused by getting older from aches that come from depression can be particularly difficult. However, careful observation and a few questions can be all it takes when you're trying to determine if one of your clients is just dealing with not being as young as they once were, or if they're suffering from depression.
Sign #5: Focus on Death and Dying
The older we get, the more we have to face the very real prospect that we're going to die. We'll lose parents, friends, and those we care about to death, and each of us will have to come to grips with the fact that it will be our turn sooner or later.
There's a difference between accepting that death will come, and fixating on it. Older people who suffer from depression might fall into the latter category, and in some cases they'll even suffer from suicidal thoughts. Observation and evaluation are necessary here because it can catch those thoughts, and get help before they become attempts.
These are just a few of the more common signs of depression in older people.