With an untreated depression, older people may show a loss of concentration and other cognitive changes — symptoms that may be erroneously attributed to dementia, according to Dr. Adelman, the Emilie Roy Corey Professor of Geriatrics and Gerontology at Weill Cornell Medicine.
What’s more, older people are apt to suffer from one or more chronic illnesses, some of which can cause depression. For instance, many people with Parkinson’s disease develop depression.
Along with cognitive symptoms, experiencing a depressed mood, loss of pleasure in activities, significant weight loss or gain, decrease or increase in appetite, sleeping too much or too little, fatigue, feelings of worthlessness, or excessive or inappropriate guilt calls for a trip to the doctor for a depression screening and medical exam, Dr. Adelman says.
Needless to say, if an individual has recurrent thoughts of death or suicide or attempts suicide, this calls for an emergency psychiatric evaluation.
“Treatment depends on the person having a comprehensive evaluation,” says Dr. Granieri, assistant professor of medicine at Columbia University Irving Medical Center. “Interventions depend on whether the signs or symptoms are true depression only, on the type of depression, or if there is depression mixed with other disorders. The interventions may include medications, talk therapy, socialization or change in social environment, optimizing care of other physical disorders, or changing medications for other conditions that the person may already be on.”