Depression is a common and serious medical condition that negatively affects how you feel, think, and behave. It’s one of the most common mental health disorders in the United States and is linked to other health problems. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that seven million older adults experience depression each year in the United States.

It’s easy for family members to explain away common signs of depression. Symptoms of depression can be masked by chronic health conditions, or the medications used to treat them. Seniors can even disguise depression during short visits with family members. October is National Depression Education and Awareness Month. If you are a family member of an aging relative, it’s important that you learn more about depression and how it affects seniors. Here are four signs of depression that families should never ignore.

Unexplained Change in Weight

One common sign of elderly depression is a sudden, unexplained change in their weight. Depression affects appetite, causing someone to eat more or less than usual. Eventually, this change in appetite alters their size. Pay attention to how your aging loved one looks in appearance. Have they had a drastic, unplanned weight loss or weight gain? Do they seem more bloated or gaunt? Have you had to purchase smaller or larger-sized clothing for them? If your aging loved one has lost interest in food or is eating more than usual, they may be depressed.

Loss of Interest in Activities

Another sign of depression in older adults is a loss of interest in their favorite activities. Seniors who are depressed are more likely to withdraw from their favorite activities, both socially and independently. They just don’t have the energy to engage in hobbies or leisure pursuits. Another thing to look for is a decline in social invitations. Depression can cause older adults to withdraw from family and friends. It can also cause them to feel anxious to go home or be alone when they do accept a social invitation. If your aging loved one frequently declines an invitation to family dinners or hasn’t pursued their favorite activities, they could be depressed.

Changes in Sleep Patterns

Seniors who are depressed are more likely to experience chronic fatigue and have variable sleep patterns. They may sleep most of the day or suffer from insomnia.  In general, they move at a slower pace and can appear restless. They may even complain about feeling tired and lethargic. Feeling tired and lacking energy is a major sign of depression. If you’ve noticed that your aging loved one seems exhausted all the time, they could be suffering from depression.

Significant Mood Swings or Irritability

Finally, a common sign of depression is a constant state of emotional turmoil. Most families associate depression with crying. However, depression can manifest itself in other emotions, such as crankiness, irritability, guilt, or anxiety. Depression makes it difficult for over adults to manage these more intense feelings. The smallest thing can set them off and cause them to overreact. If your aging loved one seems to be in a persistent angry mood, or sounds more pessimistic than usual, they could be struggling with depression.

Depression is not a normal part of aging. It can be treated by medication and/or therapy prescribed by a doctor. It can even be prevented through regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, and consistent participation in activities, both social and independent. If you think that your aging loved one is depressed, please schedule an appointment with their doctor to discuss your concerns.

Senior Living Solutions understands the many challenges families of aging loved ones face. It can be difficult to discern how an elderly relative is managing everyday life at home. They may need more support than families can provide. Fortunately, we’re here to help. If you’re exploring senior living options for your aging loved one, let us be your guide. We are a free senior-living consulting agency that’s based in Arkansas and operates locally. Our mission is to relieve stress and ease the burden of finding the best senior living options for our clients. Whether you’re looking for assisted or independent living facilities, or prefer in-home care, we can help you navigate this challenging transition. To learn more or to schedule your free consultation, please contact us today by calling 501-650-3013.