Older Adults at Risk For Depression

Learn More About What YOU Can Do About It

What You Should Know

Depression is not a normal part of aging - it is a medical condition and should be treated as such. Studies show that in many countries suicide rates among elderly persons are higher than or as equal as young people; on a global scale, suicide rates among the elderly are the highest. The rate of suicide among elderly adults is 15.3 per 100,000. This doesn't have to be - suicide is a preventable public health challenge.

According to a study recorded by Healthy People 2020 socially disconnected older adults are at a greater risk for suicide. This indicates that the older adult needs to learn more about strategies to address risk factors for suicide and become more socially active; this can help to improve the lives of individuals and reduce the risk of suicide.

What Can Be Done and Will It Help?

First, in order to properly treat depression in the older adult, it must be properly assessed. The older adult can assess depression by asking themselves if they are experiencing feelings of hopelessness, guilt, worthlessness and/or helplessness, irritability or helplessness, loss of interest in activities, fatigue and decreased energy, difficulty concentrating, difficulty sleeping or excessive sleeping, overeating or appetite loss, thoughts of suicide, or persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not get better, even with treatment.

It is important for the older adult to know that older adult's symptoms of depression can be easily misdiagnosed as just a natural reaction to illness or the life changes, and that it is important for the older adult to seek help if depression is suspected. It is suggested that in order to decrease depression in the older adult we should engage family and community gatekeepers, promote telecommunications, and involve physicians in education on elderly depression/suicide risk. Since social disconnect is indicated as a primary cause of depression in the older adult, it is important to promote connection with family members. This can be done by involving family members in one’s daily activities and in turn involving oneself in the daily activities of family members.
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Community Resources

It is important for the older adult to understand that if they require help immediately they should call 911, Visit a nearby emergency department or your health care provider's office, or:

- The toll-free, 24-hour hotline of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255).
- Senior living advisors, call 888-632-2103

Older adults can become more socially involved with the community by engaging in volunteering, faith based community services, physical recreation, or social groups with similar interests (such as sowing, reading, or automobile clubs for exp.). It is important to use telecommunication so that one remains connected with family and friends, this way, they not only have a pleasant way to learn and pass the time, but they also have a resource that is constantly available to them if they need to talk to someone. Telephone, email, social media, and other forms of connection should all be promoted to the elderly client at their preference.

It is important to always consult with the primary care provider in order to assess the risk for depression and receive education and treatment according to the specific risk factors.


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a. The Senior Connection: Improving social connectedness and social integration to address suicide attempts in older adults. (2014, August 21). Retrieved February 8, 2016, from http://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/healthy-people-in-action/story/the-senior-connection-improving-social-connectedness-and-social

b. Depression is Not a Normal Part of Growing Older. (2015, March 5). Retrieved February 8, 2016, from http://www.cdc.gov/aging/mentalhealth/depression.htm

c. Lapierre, S., Erlangsen, A., & Waern, M. (2013, July 31). A Systematic Review of Elderly Suicide Prevention Programs. Retrieved February 8, 2016, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3728773/


Trevor H.
Destini T.