Recognizing The Signs Of Depression In The Elderly


Recognizing The Signs Of Depression In The Elderly


Depression can impact any person at any time, regardless of his/her age. So why is depression commonly seen as an emotional ramification of getting older? The truth is that with ample support and treatment, elderly individuals can lead happy, healthy and fulfilling lives. It’s important, however, to be able to recognize the signs of depression in our elderly loved ones so that it can be treated.

According to the Mood Disorders Society of Canada, “it is estimated that 5% to 10% (of seniors) will experience a depressive disorder that is serious enough to require treatment. And the rate of anxiety and depression dramatically increases to 30% to 40% for seniors living in institutions. The great news is that most people with depression (over 80%) respond well to treatment and achieve a complete and lasting recovery.”


What are the signs that may indicate a senior is depressed?


Negative thoughts

Has your elderly parent confessed to you that he/she feels like a burden? Is the topic of his/her impending death regularly brought up? Other changes in thinking to watch for, says the Mood Disorders Society of Canada, include difficulties in decision making, a preoccupation with perceived failures or personal inadequacies, becoming harshly self-critical and unfairly judgmental, a loss of being in touch with reality and even hearing voices.


Difficulty sleeping

Does your older parent complain that he/she can’t sleep at night but ends up dosing off in the afternoon? In a joint article on, Lawrence Robinson, Melinda Smith, M.A. and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D. note that having a hard time sleeping is a sign of depression in older adults. “Many older adults struggle with sleep problems, particularly insomnia,” they inform, “But lack of sleep makes depression worse. Aim for somewhere between 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.”



Was your older parent someone who enjoyed taking walks, spending time in the garden or working on crossword puzzles? If you’re finding that these activities no longer interest your elderly loved one because he/she “doesn’t have the energy”, you are noticing another sign of depression. Neglecting duties such as housework, gardening or paying bills is a change in behavior to look out for, says the Mood Disorders Society of Canada.


Weight loss

Does your elderly parent often claim he/she isn’t hungry? Are you noticing his/her favorite shirt now looks too big? A loss of appetite is certainly a sign of depression, but it’s also important to look out for the other impacts of a change in diet. They include stomach upsets, constipation, decreased energy, weakness and headaches. In some cases, depression may even cause weight gain. Monitoring your loved one’s weight is an important step in providing care.


Increased use of alcohol or drugs

Is your older parent consuming more drinks than usual? “It can be tempting to use alcohol to deal with physical and emotional pain,” says Robinson, Smith and Segal, “It may help you take your mind off an illness, feel less lonely, or get to sleep. But alcohol makes symptoms of depression and anxiety worse over the long run. It also impairs brain function and interacts in negative ways with numerous medications, including antidepressants.”


What are the most common treatments for depression in the elderly?

They include medication, the building of social supports, psychotherapy or counselling, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) or a combination of any of these treatments. Recommendations are generally based on the type and severity of the depression symptoms, past treatments and other medical conditions the individual might have. As an alternative or as an enhancement to the treatments noted, Companionship services on a regular basis can have significant impact on the quality of life for a senior!  The emotional connection is as much a contributor to quality of life and longevity as the physical needs! 


Senior Homecare by Angels is proud to have a team of professional home care providers who are trained to deal with the symptoms of depression in the elderly. For more information, please don’t hesitate to call us at 403-862-0129 or outside of Calgary, toll-free at 1-877-209-6142.

You may also visit our Contact Us page to complete and submit a simple contact form, and we’ll contact you.


Gerald Gatto, OwnerGerry Gatto is a trained health care administrator and the owner of Senior Homecare® By Angels a Calgary – based company. Helping Calgary seniors remain in their home and maintain their independence with the assistance of dedicated caregiver.