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Depression & Anxiety in the Elderly: Signs, Symptoms & Cause

Article by Daniel Westhead Daniel Westhead Sure Safe Alarms

Depression and anxiety can affect anyone. However, the elderly are more susceptible to these types of mental health issues.

22% of men and 28% of women over 65 suffer from depression, according to a report from the Mental Health Foundation. But of these people, only 15% receive help from the NHS, meaning the majority of sufferers face these problems alone.

Depression and anxiety in the elderly are more common than many people realise. Each can present in different ways and be caused by different things. Understanding the signs and symptoms can help you identify when an older person is in need.

Here are the common symptoms and causes of depression and anxiety in elderly people – along with ways to seek help and support when needed.

What is depression in the elderly?

Depression isn’t a one-size-fits-all mental health issue. It can manifest in different ways, and older people may also see physical health decline as a result. Some of the common ways depression may appear include:

  • Withdrawing from normal activities and people
  • Feeling tired and lethargic more frequently
  • Eating more or less than usual
  • Weight loss or gain in a short space of time
  • Lack of confidence and being self-critical
  • Feeling there is no point to life
  • Having suicidal thoughts

The above factors can also start to affect physical health and may manifest through lack of sleep or reduced interest in food. Typically, people with depression experience these types of issues over many weeks. But if it has been more than a few weeks with most days feeling like this, seeking help is essential.

What is elderly anxiety?

Anxiety is typically described as feeling worried or fearful and can be caused by several elements within everyday life. For older adults, this anxiousness may be due to feeling isolated or worried about issues such as health, mobility and the future in general.

The symptoms of anxiety manifest in various ways, such as:

  • Sweating
  • Feeling irritated or on edge
  • Dry mouth
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Nausea
  • Shaking
  • Unable to concentrate
  • Overthinking situations

Some elderly people may see the above symptoms come and go, as anxiety can rear its head in moments of distress. However, if they begin to affect daily life, seeking professional help is vital.

What causes anxiety and depression in older adults?

These mental health problems can affect individuals at any age and are often triggered by various life events and changes. For example, it is unknown why some people experience more obvious symptoms of anxiety and depression than others. But identifying triggers can help individuals understand how to cope and manage better.

Some key areas that may cause symptoms of anxiety and depression are:

  • Financial issues
  • Health problems
  • Housing and social care worries
  • Relationship challenges
  • Bereavement and grief
  • Retirement concerns
  • Times of the year, such as Christmas or birthdays
  • Unexpected changes to schedules or plans

Life events can spur various feelings, both positive and negative, and this affects how an individual reacts. Feeling anxious more frequently is concerning and may lead to depression if left untreated. Identifying the signs and symptoms of depression and anxiety early helps with creating coping strategies and ensures support is available when needed.

So, what can you do?

Family and friends are often the first to see tell-tale signs of depression and anxiety in the elderly. It can feel difficult to approach someone about your concerns, but talking is a great way to help them open up more.

Many people brush off these concerns. However, offering support and reassuring them that there is someone to talk to may spark a conversation, whether that’s now or in the near future.

It’s vital not to pressure an individual to talk about their feelings. Some people don’t like to open up, and reaching this point will take some time. It’s also important not to diagnose them as this will feel like a bombardment.

If an elderly person is alone a lot of the time, simply keeping in touch or visiting as much as possible helps them to feel supported. Many problems with depression and anxiety in the elderly stem from isolation and having no one to talk to.

Encouraging more social time (if they can get out and about) is also a great way to reduce feelings of loneliness. Community groups are typically available nationwide where individuals can learn new skills, socialise and pop out for a cuppa with friends.

External help for elderly depression and anxiety problems

Some elderly people may require additional help to combat anxiety and depression. Encouraging a visit to the GP is one of the first steps to diagnosing these issues. While there is no specific way to test for anxiety and depression, medical professionals know what to look out for. Blood tests will also rule out any health problems that have similar symptoms.

Treatments for mental health issues vary depending on the needs of the individual. Talking therapy, CBT and counselling are helpful ways to talk through issues and develop strategies and coping mechanisms. Medication may also be required in some instances.

Everyone is different, and each case of anxiety and depression is unique to the person. So, seeking advice is an excellent way to gain support and treatment to improve overall health and well-being.

Supporting elderly family and friends with SureSafe

Whether it’s at home or out and about, providing support to elderly friends and family helps to reduce feelings of isolation and loneliness. It assures them that someone is always available when needed.

As mentioned above, simply calling or giving them the ability to contact you offers peace of mind. At SureSafe, our elderly alarm pendants can help connect you to loved ones 24/7. From handy trackers with fall detection to watch-style accessories that enable freedom and safety wherever they are – each ensures you can reach them quickly should the need arise.

For more information on our personal alarms, contact our team on 0800-112-3201 or send an email to [email protected]. We look forward to hearing from you.

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