About 6 million Americans age 65 and older suffer depression. The sad fact is only 10% seek and receive treatment. Many times other illnesses and disabilities accompany the onset of late-life depression. When people reach this age, oftentimes, their support system begins to crumble. Spouses, siblings and friends die. They face retirement or relocation. People who suffer depression are likely to see a diminished quality of life. This can rob them of personal joy and the productivity once felt.
Elderly people with depression may be delayed in proper and effective treatment by doctors due to their transformation in certain situations and the very fact that they are expected to slow down. Even the family members may not rightly understand them. This leads to further suffering which could have been easily treated during initial stages.
Depression in elderly adults with other physical illnesses increases their risk of death. For example, nursing home studies have shown that depression correlates with higher chances of dying after a heart attack. Additionally, depression generally lasts longer in elderly adults. That's why it's very important to make sure that any elderly person you care about is treated promptly if they show symptoms of depression, even if the symptoms are mild.
Depression in the elderly is more likely to lead to suicide. The risk of suicide is a serious concern among elderly patients with depression. Elderly white men are at greatest risk, with suicide rates in people age's 80 to 84 more than twice that of the general population. The National Institute of Mental Health considers depression in people age 65 and older to be a major public health problem. Weight changes unrelated to physical problems and changes in sleep pattern are a few symptoms depression elderly.
Many common, long-term illnesses in the latter parts of life like diabetes, stroke, heart disease, cancer, chronic lung disease, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and arthritis can trigger depression. Suicide is also more common among older adults with depression than younger people with depression. Older individuals, aged 65 and older, account for 19% of all deaths by suicide. Elderly people with depression also will have roughly 50% higher health care costs than non-depressed seniors. Elderly depression costs are estimated to be nearly $22 billion a year.
Factors that increase the risk of depression in the elderly include being female, unmarried (especially if widowed), stressful life events, and lack of a supportive social network. Having physical conditions like stroke, cancer and dementia further increases that risk. While symptoms depression elderly may be an effect of certain health problems, it can also increase a person's risk of developing other illnesses, primarily those affecting the immune system, like infections.