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Understanding Depression in the Elderly

Understanding Depression in the Elderly

depression in elderly

  • Approximately 15% of adults aged 60 and over suffer from a mental health disorder.

  • Globally, the population is ageing rapidly. Between 2015 and 2050, the proportion of the world’s population over 60 years will nearly double, from 12% to 22%.

  • Mental health and well-being are as important in older age as at any other time of life.

  • Mental and neurological disorders among older adults account for 6.6% of the total disability (DALYs) for this age group.

Coping with the aging process can affect the mental health of you or your elderly loved ones as you/ they come to terms with many changes in relation to physical health, slowing down, perhaps living alone and maybe a degree of social isolation. Some people adjust well and learn to enjoy this stage of their lives while others find it harder to see beyond their limitations.

The underlying cause for depression can also be a physical one e.g. underactive thyroid or pituitary gland. In some cases, early onset Alzheimer’s can be confused with depression. Tests through the GP can determine possible health problems.

How can you the recognise signs and symptoms of depression?

  • Low mood

  • Emotional and tearful

  • Restless, agitated and irritable

  • Lack of enthusiasm to do things

  • Loss of appetite

  • Withdrawing socially

If you or your elderly relative/friend are showing some or all of the above it is important not to ignore them as things may get worse without intervention.

What can help if an individual appears to be low in mood?

  • If it is your elderly loved one - talk to them about how they are feeling so support can be offered.

  • Arrange a visit to the GP so you or the individual affected can discuss their mood/symptoms, consider treatment options i.e. medication or talking therapies

  • Keep in regular contact i.e. friends/family - as this is important in promoting good mental health.

  • Develop new interests.

  • Adopt good lifestyle choices i.e. good balanced diet with regular meals and daily exercise.

  • Arrange regular support through an Independent Living Adviser who can improve either your or your elderly loved one’s quality of life, reduce risk of crisis and stave off any need to enter residential care.

Diet to support low mood

Research has shown that certain foods may be helpful in enhancing mood, so the following could be included in your diet or encouraged if your elderly loved one is showing signs of mild depression:

  • A Mediterranean diet has shown to be beneficial as olive oil appears to increase the amount of brain chemical called Serotonin which has a similar effect as antidepressants.

  • A diet rich in Omega-3 i.e. oily fish like salmon, mackerel or sardines, soybeans, flaxseeds, chia seeds and walnuts or supplements as research showed improvement in symptoms in individuals taking these fatty oil supplements.

  • Bananas contain a natural antidepressant.

  • The role of Vitamin D in depression is not yet fully understood but deficiency of this vitamin has been linked to poor mental health. Foods high in Vitamin D include oily fish, eggs and fortified products like cereal and margarine.

  • A lack of Vitamin B vitamins can cause tiredness and feeling depressed or irritable. Foods rich in Vitamin B include Marmite, wholegrain cereals / grains, eggs, dairy products, beans/ lentils and animal protein products – meat /fish.

  • Folate deficiency causes an increased chance of depression particularly in elderly people. Food rich in folate include green leafy vegetables, liver, chickpeas, beans, lentils and fortified cereal products.

Additional support through mental health specialist agencies

  1. MIND – offers support and information for better mental health. Infoline 0300 123 3393 Monday to Friday 9am to 6pm. More Info:

  2. Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT)

Talking therapy which can be accessed through the GP or self-referral, but the waiting list can be 4 to 18 weeks.

More Info:

  1. Samaritans offer confidential support from trained listeners for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair.

Telephone 116 123 (free 24-hour helpline)

Support through Independent Living Advisers

In order to help you or your elderly loved one access additional services to support good mental health i.e. connecting to support groups, clubs and new friends, an expert Independent Living Assistance Adviser can navigate amongst the many public and private sector providers to put in place the right solutions for you, at the price to suit your needs.

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