Griatric Depression

Posted on

Oct 27, 2015

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Depression is a devastating disease and is projected to be the leading cause of disability by the year 2020. It affects up to 14 million individuals. With our growing geriatric population that is expected to double in the next 30 years, geriatric depression is an illness that needs to be recognized. Depression in the geriatric population is a challenge to recognize due to other medical illnesses that often mask it and the fact that the elderly downplay any emotion or symptoms they may have.

George is a 74 year old male. He is always complaining that his muscles hurt, he feels dizzy, and that he is constipated. He goes to his doctors office multiple times a month for vague reasons. He recently had to move in with his daughter after a fall 3 months ago. He has frequent anger outbursts and has a hard time sleeping at night. His daughter reports that he is very uncooperative and is hard to deal with. Does George sound like someone you know? Does his life sound at all like yours?

Depression in the elderly is often missed as the elderly often do not talk about emotional issues. They will usually deny being depressed and often obsess about physical symptoms such as constipation. It is hypothesized that about 6%-9% of the elderly over 60 have depression who are seen in the primary care setting. It is thought that 17%-37% of the elderly have minor depression. These statistics do not even include those that do not visit their doctors perhaps due to lack of finances or transportation problems.

Depression can be extremely hard to identify as so many geriatric clients may have multiple other medical illnesses that often mask depression. It is believed that 65% of geriatrics who have depression present with other symptoms that they believe they have or obsess about. Some of the other symptoms may include exaggerated gastrointestinal symptoms or arthritic symptoms, cardiovascular symptoms, a decrease in cognition, weight loss, or just overall increase tiredness.

Of concern, suicide among the elderly is important to think about as the incidence of overall suicide increases with age. It is believed that 25% of all suicides occur within the geriatric population. Depression is the most important risk factor for suicide. Of all suicide, 20% of those completed by the geriatric population saw their medical provider that day.

Below is a list of common symptoms in geriatric depression.


Aches and pains (frequent doctor visits)
Depressed mood
Disturbance in sleep or eating patterns
Loss of interest in enjoyable activities
Withdrawal from social situations.
Fixated on planning the end of their life
Verbalization that they are a burden to their family
Preoccupation with health
Poor appetite and weight loss
Increased fatigue
Increased agitation and anger

If depression is suspected by yourself, your loved one, or someone you know, visit your medical provider and discuss your concerns or questions as soon as possible. Depression is treatable and is not a normal part of aging.

Editors Note: This article was submitted by Sherrie Glassmeyer FNP-C, PMHNP-C with Haven Behavioral Senior Care of North Denver, 303-288-7800. For more information visit Haven Behavioral Healthcare on the web at:

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