Depression in the Elderly

When depression manifests during the later years of a person’s life, it can be challenging to diagnose and treat for several reasons: 

Difficult to Identify: Depression can be more difficult to recognize in old age because it has some of the same symptoms as other illnesses that tend to afflict older populations, such as dementia. Moreover, depression can also be a symptom of an another underlying of disease such as Parkinson’s Disease or Alzheimer’s Disease. 

Incorrectly Characterized: Depression is often (incorrectly) characterized as a "natural" part of aging. Older populations have a higher number of risk factors for depression than younger populations. These risk factors, identified by the National Institute of Mental Health, include:

  • Chronic medical illness, such as cancer, diabetes or heart disease
  • Disability
  • Social Isolation
  • Personal or family history of depression
  • Use of certain medications
  • Brain disease
  • Misuse of alcohol or drugs
  • Stressful life events such as loss of a spouse, divorce, or taking care of someone with a chronic illness

However, steps can be taken to maintain good mental health by nurturing social connections and prioritizing adequate rest, nutrition, and exercise. Family and caregivers should also be vigilant about recognizing the symptoms of depression, which include:

  • Changes in appetite resulting in weight loss or gain
  • Insomnia or oversleeping
  • Loss of energy and/or increased fatigue
  • Irritation and/or restlessness
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Difficulty thinking, concentrating, or making decisions
  • Thoughts of death or suicide

Consult a medical professional if you recognize these symptoms in yourself or a loved one to see what the best course of treatment is. Common options include drug therapy, talk therapy, and Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) Therapy. TMS Therapy is an FDA-Cleared and effective in-office treatment that does not have the side effects that many antidepressants have and can be used as a stand-alone treatment or in conjunction with medications. To learn more about TMS Therapy, schedule a Free Consultation