Depression is not a normal part of aging, but unfortunately because many older adults and their caregivers believe it is, depression in this population often is overlooked and untreated. Although older adults may experience many losses in later life, the majority cope with these losses without becoming clinically depressed. If the sadness that follows a life change lingers for a long period of time, it may be clinical depression. Often the symptoms of depression are missed because they coincide with other illnesses which occur with age. Late-life depression affects approximately 6 million older adults, most of them women. Unfortunately, nearly 90% of older adults with depression will not get the help they need. The good news is clinical depression can be diagnosed and treated. More than 80% of people with depression can be treated successfully with medication, psychotherapy, or both.
Symptoms of depression include:
* Persistent sad, anxious, or "empty" mood.
* Sleeping too little or too much.
* Change in appetite or weight.
* Restlessness or irritability.
* Fatigue or loss of energy.
* Thoughts of suicide or death.
For more information, contact Madeline Gallo, Vice President, Public Education, National Mental Health Association, 1021 Prince Street, Alexandria, VA 22314-2971, or call (703) 684-7722, or fax (703) 684-5968.