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Top Health Threat to Seniors: Depression


It helps be able to recognize the signs of depression such as expressing feelings of hopelessness or sadness that does not go away and loss of interest in activities they previously enjoyed, in order to pro-actively provide support.

Causes and risk factors that contribute to depression in the elderly include:

  1. Loneliness and isolation – Living alone; a dwindling social circle due to deaths or relocation; decreased mobility due to illness or loss of driving privileges.

  2. Diminished sense of purpose – Feelings of purposelessness or loss of identity due to retirement or physical limitations on activities.

  3. Health problems – Illness and disability; chronic or severe pain; cognitive decline; damage to body image due to surgery or disease.

  4. Medications – Many prescription medications can trigger or exacerbate depression.

  5. Fears – Fear of death or dying; anxiety over financial problems or health issues.

  6. Recent bereavement – The death of friends, family members, and pets; the loss of a spouse or partner.

Here are some steps recommended by that can help your loved one overcome the symptoms, no matter the challenges they face.

  1. Encourage them to learn new skills, try new activities, or make fresh lifestyle changes. The human brain never stops changing, so older adults are just as capable as younger people of learning new things and adapting to new ideas.

  2. Exercise. Physical activity has powerful mood-boosting effects. In fact, research suggests it may be just as effective as antidepressants in relieving depression. Even if they are ill, frail, or disabled, there are many safe exercises they can do to build your strength and boost your mood—even from a chair or wheelchair.

  3. Facilitate opportunities to connect with others, face to face whenever possible. Getting the support they need plays a big role in lifting the fog of depression and keeping it away. If you cannot get them out to socialize, invite loved ones to visit them or keep in touch over the phone or email.

  4. Maintain a healthy diet. Avoid eating too much sugar and junk food. Encourage healthy foods that provide nourishment and energy, as well as taking a daily multivitamin.

  5. Foster participation in activities they enjoy. Pursue whatever hobbies or pastimes bring or used to bring them joy.

  6. Encourage them to Volunteer. Helping others is one of the best ways to feel better and expand their social network.

  7. Create opportunities to laugh. Laughter provides a mood boost, so swap humorous stories and jokes with your loved ones, watch a comedy, or read a funny book.

Make sure they get a checkup with their doctor and talk to their pharmacist regarding drug side effects and/or interactions, as symptoms of depression can also occur as part of medical problems such as dementia or as a side effect of prescription drugs.  Watch for suicide warning signs. Seek immediate professional help if you suspect that your loved one is thinking about suicide.

There is help for seniors who are dealing with depression. Be open about asking for professional help. There are experts who deal with these issues and know how to help. For more information visit

For other helpful caregiving resources visit

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