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Depression is a subject that still has a lot of confusion around it. Many find it a difficult topic to tackle too. But this combined lack of knowledge and an inability to talk about it can exacerbate the situation not just for the person suffering from depression, but those close to them, too.

Often depression in older people comes hand-in-hand with other factors, such as health issues, seismic lifestyle changes, fears around what the future holds, or isolation. It’s a fact that when we retire, our lives often completely change. This alone can lead to a reduced sense of purpose or worries around finances. These are just some of the contributing factors to depression as we age. But what are the warning signs? And how can we differentiate between depression and other conditions like dementia?

The signs of depression
Studies show that many older people with depression don’t consider themselves to be sad. So, what are the signs of depression if it’s not a sense of sadness? While sadness may be a symptom of depression, there are deeper routed factors too:

  • Physical aches and pains
  • Loss of appetite
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Sleep problems
  • Reliance on drugs or alcohol
  • Neglecting personal hygiene
  • A loss of interest in things they used to enjoy
  • Fixating on death
  • Poor self-worth

Unlike other illnesses, like dementia, depression can affect people rapidly, rather than as a slow decline. Also, sufferers of depression won’t be confused over things like dates and times, and if they do have a lapse of memory, it can be a cause for concern. Although stability and speech can also be affected by depression like it can with dementia, those skills can be hindered, but not impaired.

Causes of depression
Sometimes it can be tempting to attribute depression to a root cause, or as a result of a specific event. Although certain events may trigger depression, it can also be due to a number of different things. It’s important to recognise that big lifestyle changes, the loss of a loved one or declining health may be having a profound effect on your loved one’s state of mind, however. With this knowledge, you can discover ways to help. Depression should not be considered as part and parcel of the aging process. And there are ways to nurture a more positive outlook and bring some joy back into your life.

Ways to build a happier future
Suggesting ways to reconnect with an old hobby or plan a special event can bring a little joy into your loved one’s life. But generally speaking, it’s longer-term lifestyle changes that can really help with depression in older people.

Getting outside and enjoying nature is one powerful mood buster. And it’s something that’s accessible to all. Aside from making you happier, it’s said to reduce stress, increase focus and enhance cognitive function. Not to mention the fact that a little gentle exercise is something that anyone can benefit from.

Depression and disabilities
If your loved one has a disability, certain activities can either be off bounds or feel too daunting to try. This can lead to an increased sense of isolation if left unchecked. Disabilities can also increase a sense of loss, and this is turn can exacerbate symptoms of depression.

Mindfulness is another great tool available for anyone, and studies have shown that it can be extremely beneficial for those with mental health issues. It can help people deal with stress, anger and provide a sense of control over negative emotions. Even better, it’s something anyone can try, for free, through apps and online. You simply need a smartphone or a laptop to give it a try.