Elderly at Risk for Depression

Just who are the individuals who are elderly and at the highest risk for depression? What can they do to overcome their risk factors for depression?

One category of individuals at risk for elderly depression is women over 65. There is not much they can do about being female or being over 65; so for them the risk cannot be minimized. They can however understand what other factors may put them at risk for depression and try to avoid or minimize those factors.

Other factors that may put the elderly at risk for depression are:

    * Biological factors including hormonal changes as those that occur during menopause and genetic factors such as having a family member who has suffered from depression.

    * Relationship stresses including maintaining a relationship that is strained or having recently gone through a divorce; having a close relation such as a son or daughter in harm’s way such as serving in the military in a conflict zone.

Elderly at most risk for depression are those who live alone, or who spend most of their time alone. Also at risk are those who have experienced recent loss of a loved one, spouse, son or daughter, or even friend.

Individuals at risk for depression are:

* Those elderly persons who are on medications that may have a side effect of depression.

* Health problems especially those where there is a disfigurement such as a breast removal, or limb amputee are especially prone to depression.

* Certain medications can trigger bouts of depression or they may elevate the degree of depression felt by the individual.

* Elderly individuals, who eat alone, do not participate in-group functions, or who are not members of senior community centers are also at risk.

* Poor diet in the elderly can make depression worse.

* Those who have suffered losses and are now lacking in companionship and also suffer from physical ailments or long-term illnesses are at special risk for developing depression

Individuals at risk for depression often deny that they are sad, lonely or are grieving. Very few individuals are willing to admit when they are not in control of their life.

When determining who are the ones at risk for depression, it is important not to confuse grief with depression. Grief is a natural feeling following a major life change such as leaving a cherished home or when suffering the loss of a loved one through divorce, death, move or even an extended separation like when a son or daughter is called into military service.

Grief is a reaction to normal losses or hardships that we all face in life. Elderly have lived longer than those who are younger and thus have experienced life changes and hardships more often. These normal periods of grief will lift as the individual adjusts and adapts to the situation or event by way of coping skills or a support system. When grief is extended past what is typically considered to be normal than it may be a sign that the individual is heading into what can then be termed as “clinical depression”.