As the stigma around mental illness and depression is slowly decreasing, Australians are beginning to develop a deeper understanding of these diseases and how to best approach treating them. Unfortunately, the stigma amongst the older population is the hardest to penetrate, despite the especially high rates of depression among this particular age group.
The Government Department of Health suggests older people are more likely to experience depression due to circumstances like personal loss or poor physical health, and that rates of the disease are higher among those who have physical impairments, cancer, chronic conditions such as arthritis, or are experiencing the effects of a stroke.
According to Beyond Blue, between 10 and 15 per cent of people over the age of 65 experience depression at some point. That figure dramatically increases for people living in residential aged-care facilities to around 35 per cent.
Beyond Blue includes all of the following as possible signs that an older person is suffering from depression:
- General slowing down or restlessness
- Neglect of responsibilities and self-care
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Decline in day-to-day ability to function, being confused, worried and agitated
- Inability to find pleasure in any activity
- Difficulty getting motivated in the morning
- Sadness, hopelessness or emptiness
- Significant weight loss or gain
The good news is that there are a range of treatments available for those suffering from depression, ranging from psychological treatment to medical treatment. Effective treatments exist for older people and once the right treatment and healthcare professional is found for each individual’s needs, most people do recover.
Depression is not only crippling for sufferers in the way it leads to social isolation and a poor quality of life, but it also has extremely negative effects on family members. Caring for a family member with depression is an extremely difficult task, and anyone in this situation should be aware that organisations like Beyond Blue provide many resources to make the process easier.