If you find yourself visiting your aging parents, grandparents, or other loved ones this holiday season, you may be paying closer attention to their health. Are they moving around as easily as they once were, or do you worry that a walker may be in the immediate future? Did your grandma forget your daughter’s name because she has dementia or was is just a senior moment? While you will spend quality time with your extended family and certainly enjoy the celebrations, it is normal to give a little extra attention to the seniors in your life.

But while you are noticing any physical or cognitive patterns, don’t forget to pay attention to their mental health as well. According to the Centers for Disease Control, older adults are often misdiagnosed and undertreated for mental health issues, specifically depression.

It can seem that depression is a normal part of the aging process. After all, friends and family members are passing away and health is sometimes failing. However, depression is NOT a normal part of aging and should be taken seriously so that the senior in your life can receive the treatment they need to have a higher quality of life.

Older adults are at an increased risk for depression, simply because of the higher incidence of chronic health conditions. But even with 80% of seniors noting at least one chronic health condition, documented cases of depression in seniors remain low – 5% in seniors at home, 13.5% for seniors who require in-home assistance, and 11.5% in seniors who are in the hospital, as per the CDC.

Wondering if the aging adult in your life may have depression? Check for any of these warning signs:

  • Sleep pattern changes (insomnia, sleeping too much, etc.)
  • Irritability or restlessness
  • Forgetfulness
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness or hopelessness
  • Appetite changes (eating too much or not enough)
  • Persistent aches and pains that do not get better with treatment

Older adults who live with depression can benefit from a combination of psychotherapy and antidepressant medication. If you are concerned about your loved one, encourage a follow up appointment with a geriatrician. If you need contact information for mental health professionals in the DuPage County/Chicagoland area, don’t forget to browse through our Get Help section.

Enjoy your holiday season, and pay close attention to your aging loved ones. You might be able to give them the encouragement they need to see a doctor and get relief from depression. Please be sure to help them join in the festivities so they are not left alone during this special time of year.

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