How might depression in the elderly differ from depression in younger people?
Major depressive disorders among older people are estimated at between 1% and 4%. In spite of this, nearly 2 million individuals aged 65 years and above suffer from a depressive illness (Ashford & Lecroy, 2010). Depression in the elderly differs from depression in the young in a number of ways. For instance, the elderly often suffer from other illnesses and disabilities and these could contribute greatly to depression.
It also lasts longer than among the younger people. Older people with depression are twice as likely to develop cardiac diseases, and the consequent increase in the risk of dying from the illness. In addition, an elderly person suffering from depression may also find it hard to undergo rehabilitation.
Elderly people are more inclined to commit suicide as a result of depression, compared with younger people, with elderly white men bearing the greatest brunt (Ashford & Lecroy, 2010). Diagnosing a mental disorder among older adults is more complex in comparison with younger adults because a variety of cognitive, social, and emotional difficulties are involved.
For instance, a significant overlap exists between emotional and physical symptoms, depression and bereavements, as well as between “cognitive impairment of early dementia and man other mental disorders” (Ashford & Lecroy, 2010, p. 628). Older adults are also less likely to seek help for mental or emotional conditions in comparison with younger people.
This is partly the case because older adults tend to associate their problems with environmental or physical origins, as opposed to psychological origin. Also, older adults who might present with mental health issues end up receiving custodial and medication care, while younger adults are more likely to receive psychotherapy.
What should be taken into account in assessing depression in older people?
Assessing depression in older people can be accomplished by either taking a history of the illness or by conducting one-to-one interviews. Regardless of the method chosen, it is important to ensure that such an assessment is patient-centered (Garcia-Pena et al., 2013).
In addition, the health care personnel administering the assessment should possess appropriate communication skills so that patients can freely describe how they feel. The screening tools of choice should be both reliable and valid. Moreover, such screening tools should entail simple and fast rating scales as opposed to being laborious and difficult.
This will go a long way towards enhancing the participation of the elderly. The Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS) has been documented as a far more useful land efficient self-rating tool while screening for depression among the elderly (Ashford & Lecroy, 2010).
What factors might contribute to this depression?
Significant life events may cause depression among the elderly. For example, the elderly experience chronic and severe pain as a result of surgery and illnesses and in the process they might even experience damage to body image.
This, according to Yoshimura, Yamada, Kajiwara, Nishiguchi, and Aoyama (2013), is one of the causes of depression. The elderly also suffer from reduced sense of purpose upon retirement and when they are no longer able to undertake other physical activities, which also contributes to depression.
Deaths and relocations also lead to reduced social circles among the elderly, thereby creating loneliness and isolation and by extension, depression. Depression in the elderly might also be caused by recent bereavements (Yoshimura et al., 2013). Examples of such bereavements include the death of a spouse or a friend.
Ashford, J.B., & Lecroy, C.W. (2010). Human Behavior in the Social Environment: A Multidimensional Perspective, 4th Edition. Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole, Cengage Learning.
Garcia-Pena, C., Wagner, F. A., Sanchez-Garcia, S., Espinel-Bermudez, C., Juarez Cedillo, T., Perez-Zepeda, M., Arango-Lopera, V., Ramirez-Aldana, R., & Gallo, J. (2013). Late-life depressive symptoms: Prediction models of change. Journal of Affective Disorders, 150(3),886-894.
Yoshimura, K., Yamada, M., Kajiwara, Y., Nishiguchi, S., & Aoyama, T. (2013). Relationship between depression and risk of malnutrition among community dwelling young-old and old-old elderly people. Aging Ment Health, 17(4), 456-60.