Detecting Depression in the Elderly

Depression in ElderlyDepression in older people often presents differently, with symptoms not typically associated with this condition. For example, the elderly often complain of low motivation, lack of energy or physical problems. In fact, physical complaints, such as arthritis pain or headaches, are often the predominant symptom of depressive disorder in the elderly.

Depression — Not Normal in
Older People

Depressive disorder is not a normal part of aging. While sadness, grief, response to loss and temporary "blue" moods are normal, persistent depression that interferes with the ability to function is not.

Additionally, health care professionals may mistakenly think that depression is an acceptable response to other serious illnesses or social and financial hardships — a belief often shared by older people themselves. This contributes to low rates of diagnosis and treatment of depression in older adults.

Health care professionals and family members should be aware of atypical signs so that older people are evaluated for depression and treated promptly. Treating depression can help your patients manage the symptoms of chronic pain and improve overall health. Recovery from depression takes time but treatments are effective.

Getting Help

For specific questions and immediate answers, EmblemHealth primary care physicians should call the ValueOptions mental health team at 1-877-241-5575ValueOptions also offers patient education, provider forums and clinical tools.

For help in recognizing nontraditional signs of depression in a senior population, you can use the Geriatric Depression Scale.

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