Resources for the Elderly

Older Adults, Depression & Suicide: Symptoms, Facts, & Risk Factors

Elderly Depression Symptoms and Signs

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•    Frequent or prolonged depressed or irritable mood
•    Feelings of worthlessness or sadness
•    Loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities
•    Increased temper, agitation
•    Change in appetite, usually a loss of appetite
•    Difficulty sleeping
•    Daytime sleepiness
•    Difficulty falling asleep
•    Multiple awakenings through the night
•    Difficulty concentrating
•    Memory loss
•    Abnormal thoughts, excessive or inappropriate guilt
•    Abnormal thoughts about death/wishing for death
•    Thoughts and/or plans about suicide
•    Vague physical complaints that have no apparent physical basis*
•    Anxiety, agitation*
•    Memory problems and complaints*
•    *Often the initial complaints of elders vs. identifying feeling depressed

Other risk factors:

•    Family/personal history
•    Chronic illness
•    Caregiver
•    Loss of spouse/partner or other significant loss or change
•    Lacking social support
•    Alcohol or drug use
•    Pattern of negative thinking and pessimism
•    People who worry too much
•    Low self worth, feeling little control over life events
•    Certain types of medications
•    Untreated hearing loss. A 1999 National Council on Aging study showed there was an increased report of depression, anxiety, and paranoia in those without hearing aids.

Facts

•    Symptoms of clinical depression can be triggered by other chronic illnesses common in later life, such as, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, Alzheimer’s Disease, and Parkinson’s Disease.
•    As many as 75% of depressed older Americans are not receiving the treatment they need, placing them at an increased risk of suicide
•    Those who attempted suicide reported inadequate finances, social isolation, recent death of a loved one, and/or physical illness with chronic uncontrollable pain.
•    The suicide rate of white male suicides over the age 85 is nearly six times the suicide rate for all ages.
•    20% of elderly suicides over 75 have been seen by a physician within 24 hours of completing suicide; 35% have been seen by a physician within a week; 75% have seen a primary care physician within a month of their suicide, and 80% have seen a primary care physician within 6 months of their suicide.
•    Most suicidal elders will not self-refer to obtain mental health care.
•    In Colorado, older adults make up 10% of the population and account for 13% of the suicides.

Contrary to commonly held beliefs:

•    Depression is a NOT A NORMAL part of aging
•    Depression among older adults cannot be treated
•    Most completed suicides are not due to terminal illness
•    Elders who complete suicide are not always all alone in the world and may have close family members
•    Even older adults who live with others can be at risk of suicide
•    Sources: Mental Health Association of Colorado, National Institute on Mental Health, Colorado Office on Suicide Prevention, Mental Health Center of Boulder County Geriatric Team

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