Some of the most common signs of geriatric depression include tearful outbursts, confusion, pessimism, a sad countenance, insomnia, delusions and a loss of interest in grooming. Behavioral changes such as persistent negative sentiments, an uncooperative attitude and angry expressions may also be attributed to this disorder. Individuals suffering from geriatric depression frequently experience a loss of appetite, fatigue and memory problems, as well.
There are many different types of depression, which can be experienced by people of all ages. Geriatric depression is unique, however, in that this particular mental health issue affects individuals late in life. It is not often recognized in its earliest stages, but is believed to be a normal part of the aging process. Also known as elderly depression, this disorder may also remain largely undetected by loved ones as older adults often tend to deny the presence of symptoms or associate symptoms with some other physical disorder, such as arthritis or constipation.
Feelings of worthlessness, uselessness or of persistent guilt may also be due to this distinct type of depression. Aging adults feeling this way also at times report experiencing hallucinations. In addition to these symptoms, a depressed senior may experience a decline in physical abilities such as walking and performing daily tasks, as well as slowed speech patterns.
A lack of interest in normal activities, social withdrawal, diminished libido, frequent complaints of pain and a preoccupation with death are also among the symptoms of geriatric depression. The loss of a spouse, siblings and peers is common in this age group, and depression symptoms are frequently confused with normal grieving. When symptoms are prolonged, however, and physical symptoms such as unintended weight loss, a decline in motor skills and a stooped posture are present, geriatric depression may be the underlying cause.
Geriatric depression is sometimes caused by other conditions, such as cancer, Parkinson’s disease or the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. When caused by an underlying illness, other symptoms related to that particular illness may also be present. Symptoms such as pain, physical discomfort and a decline in cognitive functioning are best assessed by a doctor to determine the root cause.
As a major geriatric mental health issue, the symptoms of depression in aging adults are treatable once detected. In addition to a complete physical examination, a doctor will also ask a patient to complete a geriatric depression scale to assess an individual’s satisfaction with life, levels of anxiety and emotional feelings. If it is determined that a patient is indeed suffering from elderly depression, a doctor may prescribe medication in addition to psychotherapy to help treat symptoms. In the absence of appropriate treatment, geriatric depression often leads to suicide.