Depression is a serious but treatable medical condition that can affect how your senior loved one feels, thinks, and lives. Depression impacts seniors’ cognitive abilities, reduces their quality of life, and affects their overall mental and physical health. According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, depression affects up to fourteen percent of seniors who choose to age-in-place. 

These same studies also indicate that depression in seniors often goes unnoticed and therefore remains untreated. While occasional feelings of sadness are normal, it is important to look for any signs that your loved one may struggle with more than just a case of the blues. Below are some signs and symptoms of depression, along with options for how you can help.

Signs and Symptoms of Depression in Seniors

Depression in seniors can be overlooked for many reasons. Some seniors have other medical conditions or medication side effects, which may mimic the symptoms of depression.

Seniors may be less willing to talk about their feelings in order to avoid many of the stigmas surrounding mental health. They may view physical symptoms or health concerns as a more significant problem and be less inclined to discuss mental or emotional ones.

In some cases, the symptoms of depression present differently in seniors than they do in younger adults. The most common symptom of depression is experiencing feelings of sadness and anxiety for a period of several weeks. Below are a few other possible signals that your senior loved one may be struggling with depression.

  • Changes in sleeping patterns such as excessive sleep or difficulty sleeping
  • Lethargy, apathy, and fatigue
  • Mood changes such as increased irritability or anger
  • Chronic, unexplained aches and pains that do not improve with treatment
  • Appetite changes or changes in eating patterns
  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies they used to enjoy
  • Cognitive changes including confusion and difficulty holding their attention
  • Thoughts or talk of death or suicide

Again, grief is a natural reaction to inevitable life changes that occur with aging. However, if your senior loved one shows signs and symptoms of depression for several weeks (or longer), it is important to seek treatment. Chronic depression can have a significant impact on seniors’ health and increase the risk of suicide.

Also, depressed seniors are more likely to abuse alcohol and other drugs, leading to falls in accidents. Another fundamental reason for treatment is that depressed seniors may lack the desire or motivation to continue treatment and medications for previously diagnosed health conditions such as arthritis, heart disease, and diabetes.

Treating Seniors with Depression

Treatment can come in many forms depending on a person’s age and circumstances. If you believe your senior loved one is experiencing depression symptoms, it is important to speak with their doctor about what you have noticed. Then a treatment plan can be developed that will consider their overall health and wellbeing.

Medication for Depression

If your loved one is diagnosed with depression, their provider may prescribe an antidepressant medication, of which there are many kinds. Before prescribing anything, their provider will consider their current health, current medications, the severity of depression, and potential drug interactions.

Keep in mind that the first medication may not be the one that works. It may be necessary to try different dosages or a different medication altogether before finding one that works well.

Therapy for Depression

Many people of all ages benefit from therapy alone or in combination with antidepressant medications. The number of sessions one attends depends on the severity of their depression. A common starting point is a period of 10 to 12 weeks.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy or CBT has shown to be a highly effective tool in treating depression. This type of therapy encourages changing negative thinking patterns and behaviors that may be contributing to depressive symptoms.

Other Ways to Help

If you think your senior loved one is depressed, the first step is to seek help. You can also help your loved one by remaining connected. Loneliness and isolation are two significant contributors to depression. If you are unable to be physically present in your loved one’s life, consider the use of technology to help maintain face-to-face interactions. If you need additional assistance caring for an aging-in-place loved one, consider hiring a professional home care agency.

We Go Above and Beyond the Call of Duty

When you need a hand contact New Wave Home Care. While serving as an extended family in the home, our experienced caregivers can provide your senior with the assistance that’s needed so they can enjoy a higher quality of life. As a licensed home care provider, we use a unique approach that’s all about compassion and connection. All of this is delivered with an added personal touch that allows our clients to experience a degree of joy.

Our compassionate professionals go above and beyond in their dedication to providing care for others while making a difference in the lives of those we serve. We support clients and their families with personalized in-home solutions like personal care, transitional care, specialized care, respite care, medication reminders, dementia and Alzheimer’s care, and hospice support. To learn more about New Wave Home Care now, or to schedule a FREE in-home assessment for a senior in Pasadena or the greater Los Angeles area, please visit us at!