Depression: Geriatric Depression

Are you depressed and worried about your mental health? Or perhaps you have depressed older adults that you’re responsible taking care of at home  who also have other medical illnesses? The American Psychiatric Association states that older adults are a risk factor for many health problems as they have gone through several stressful life events. They need more mental health attention from health care providers. They may also have cognitive impairment and their declining health makes it all the more important that they go through the proper treatment, such as psychosocial treatments and other treatment options for their mental health.


What Is Geriatric Depression Or Late Life Depression?

Feelings of sadness and occasional “blue” moods are normal. An elderly person may have overcome many challenges, but they’re not immune to stress, minor physical pain, and some mental health concerns, such as acute depressive symptoms, alcohol abuse, substance abuse, and more. Geriatric depression may be a common occurrence. But is this really normal? Are elderly patients typically prone to developing depression, anxiety disorders, or other mental disorders? In this article, we look at depression in older adults and how counseling for mental health can help.

Geriatric Depression Or Late-Life Depression

Depression – whether minor depression or major depression – affects about 6 million Americans who are in the age group of 65 years and older. However, only 10% of older adults with depression get the mental health treatment they need. This is because depression manifests quite differently and may be easily confused with other symptoms of mental disorders.

Geriatric Depression And The Geriatric Depression Scale

Geriatric depression tends to last longer and may coincide with pre-existing medical illnesses or chronic diseases that may worsen its effects. More so, older adults or depressed elderly patients that have this type of depression are more at risk of developing cardiac diseases and other health problems. Research suggests that people should seek a mental healthcare professional other than the usual primary care provider for an official diagnosis. Although this is a part of aging, it should not be left untreated.

Numerous peer reviewed studies have shown that geriatric depression is a common and serious issue among older adults, significantly impacting their overall health and quality of life. Subsyndromal depression, or subthreshold depression, is a milder form of depressive symptoms that may not meet the full criteria for a major depressive disorder but can still have significant negative effects on an older adult’s mental and physical health.

Moreover, the diagnosis of geriatric depression increases the risk of suicidal ideation and suicide among aging or elderly depressed patients. Statistics show that compared to the general population, the suicide rate among older adults aged 80-84 is twice higher than that of younger adults.  Due to this, the National Institute of Mental Health considers depression in older adults to be a significant public health concern. On the geriatric depression scale, severe depression in older adults had high scores, and next in line were geriatric patients and older adults who suffer from moderate depression.

Geriatric Depression And Depression Symptoms (Including Physical Symptoms)

Recognizing the sign of geriatric depression is essential so that the proper ways to treat depression can take place. The common symptoms of depression in older adults may include the following:

  • Loss of energy and constantly feeling tired; may feel physical pain
  • Cognitive impairment, mood disorder, and memory problems
  • Declining health, including physical illness, delayed recovery, etc.
  • Sleeping problems
  • Change in appetite (that can lead to alarming weight gain or weight loss)
  • Feeling of confusion and inability to hold focus
  • Suicidal ideation or attempts (need for tricyclic antidepressants)

Causes Of Geriatric Depression

There are many possible causes of geriatric depression or late-life depression, and they may be connected with older adults’ health and overall living environment. These causes include:

Pre-existing medical conditions in the family history, like a history of depression, chronic medical illness, cognitive impairment, physical illness, substance misuse, mood disorder, or other disabilities, can affect the mental health of older adults and elderly patients. Enduring pain from geriatric depression can take a toll on anyone’s mental health, leading to senescent melancholy.  Some medical conditions that can cause depressive disorders in older adults include:

  • Stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Heart Disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Dementia
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Cancer


Geriatric Depression

  • Loss And Grief

As typical elderly patients or older adults with depression go through life, they may experience losing their loved ones. Depression can be seen as part of the grieving process, but geriatric depression can lead to more harmful situations with poor coping skills. The need for effective treatment resources is tremendously significant for safety and recovery.

  • Fear And Anxiety

Older adults’ fears and anxieties can also be possible causes of geriatric depression. This includes their fear of having a physical illness or recurrent major depression or dying suddenly. Treating depression for these older adults or elderly patients is crucial.

Counseling And Treating Depression In Older Adults

Psychotherapy and other methods to treat depression must be administered. Elderly patients and older adults with depression or a family history of depression must be given effective treatment to relieve depression and help them cope with their life challenges. Through geriatric depression counseling, the elderly can manage their emotions and cope well with depression symptoms and other changes in their lives.

The goal of depression counseling sessions is to find the root cause of the melancholy. Professional counselors will guide their clients to be comfortable with their feelings and identify the factors that cause them to feel sad.

Professional counselors can act as additional support groups and that you can always rely on aside from your family members. They can connect with you about your troubles or other medical conditions. More so, every session can fit your preferences as it is a safe space where you can speak and share your thoughts as free as you want without any hints of judgment. Contact them if you have to.

Geriatric Depression

Depression counseling for the geriatric group can address a wide range of symptoms and causes of depression among the elderly. Many doctors recommend undergoing counseling together with antidepressant substance medications.

Depression may be common among the elderly, but it doesn’t have to be the norm. Luckily there are many available treatments available for the geriatric population that has depression. Treatments  and programs may include medications, forms of brain stimulation, and psychotherapy or counseling. Changing one’s lifestyle can also be an essential step in addressing depression (geriatric).

  • Medications

Note that there are various antidepressant medications available for depressed older adults that can stabilize a person’s mood. Licensed mental health providers can prescribe tricyclic antidepressants for depressed patients with severe depression, depressed mood, or some psychiatric disorders. However, with the geriatric population, caution must be practiced when taking antidepressant medication. Those who have maintenance medicines for their health conditions must be careful with what kind of tricyclic antidepressants they’ll take to avoid adverse reactions and further damage to the mental health of older adults.

  • Lifestyle Changes

Adopting a better lifestyle can significantly affect a person’s mental health. To increase their physical activity, the elderly can find a new hobby or develop a new skill. Exercising regularly and eating a well-balanced diet are also imperative for alleviating depression.


Geriatric Depression And Electroconvulsive Therapy

  • Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)

When the older community of people can’t take drugs such as tricyclic antidepressants, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, monoamine oxidase inhibitors, and other types of antidepressant medication because these can interact with their other medicines, ECT can be an alternative treatment due to its effectiveness.

There’s still a stigma regarding depression and mental illness concerns, and even more when it’s the geriatric people who suffer from it. They may think that the sadness that they’re feeling is just a normal part of growing old, but it’s not.

When a person is deeply troubled by sad thoughts, they must seek and access professional help and support. In times like this, a counselor can lift some of the heaviness you’re feeling when your family can’t. If you know someone who’s having trouble with depression, encourage them to undergo a counseling session and always provide them with love and support.


  1. What is the most common cause of depression in the elderly?
  2. How do you deal with depression in geriatrics?
  3. Which are the risk factors of geriatric depression?
  4. What are some signs and symptoms of depression in the elderly population?
  5. What is the best antidepressant for geriatric patients?


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