Metabolism, memory, weight and fitness are just a few of the areas affected as age progresses. The elderly also face other, sometimes difficult changes as well such as the death of a spouse, social isolation (nursing home placement) and/or severe medical problems. These potentially traumatic events can often cause depression or grief, which is normal, and may last several weeks or even months. However, without a strong support system, the depression can take a very heavy toll in that person's life, up to and including the loss of joy of life or living.
A major difference between the elderly and their younger offspring is that the elderly are less likely to seek help for these feelings of despair and depression. And because there are several medications that may also cause depression, some family members just assume that depression is a normal part of getting older. More than 6 million Americans over the age of 65 are affected, but only about 10% receive treatment. It is extremely important that depression be evaluated and treated as soon as possible to ensure the continued well-being of individual. If you notice or are concerned about any symptoms, contact a physician immediately.
Signs and Symptoms of Depression
Some signs to look for in older adults are:
- Loss of interest in daily activities
- Withdrawal from friends/family
- Problems sleeping too much or not enough
- Increased use of alcohol or drugs
- Suicidal thoughts or actions
The Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS)
Created in 1982 by Yesavage et al., of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Stanford University Medical Center, the Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS) is a self-reporting screening questionnaire regarding feelings and/or thoughts for a specified amount of time, such as the previous week or two. Probably one the of the most widely used assessments, the GDS makes use of simple 'yes' or 'no' assessment questions that make the process of assessment quick and easy. Along with a full geriatric work-up by a physician, this screening tool comes in a long and short form of this test. The long form consists of 30 questions, and the newer, shorter form, created in 1986, consists of 15 questions pulled from the original long form. Some sample questions are as follows:
Are you basically satisfied with your life? Yes/NO
Do you feel that your life is empty? YES/No
Are you afraid that something bad is going to happen to you? YES/No
Do you feel happy most of the time? Yes/NO
Each answer carries one point, so scores from 0-10 are normal, scores from 11-20 show mild depression, and scores of 21 and higher show severe depression.
Special Note: No permission is required for use of this tool. It has been made a part of public domain. It is available for download in many different languages and can be found by searching the web.