Elderly urged to be aware of the signs of depression


DEPRESSION IS not an inevitable part of ageing, but older people and their friends and families are being urged to be aware of the signs, particularly in winter when isolation can become more of an issue.

“Depression remains one of the taboo subjects,” said Eamon Timmins, spokesman for Age Action, on the launch of a new booklet, Mind Yourself – Depression in Later Life.

“There’s a perception among some older people that depression is part of the territory. But there are treatments and help,” he said. “We are coming into the long winter months and we want people to stay well in their own homes. There has been a focus on the physical, and the mental issues are often ignored. It’s important that people are aware.”

Triggers for depression include life changes like bereavement, physical illness or retirement, and friends and family should be on the lookout for older people, particularly if they are isolated, Mr Timmins said.

Signs of depression in older age can include feeling sad most of the day for two weeks or more, withdrawing from social contact, poor sleep, change in appetite, and becoming irritable or anxious and an increased focus on physical ailments, according to Brian Lawlor, professor of older age psychiatry at Trinity and St James’s Hospital, who contributed to the booklet.

“Mild to moderate depression would not always require medication – we would look at things like engagement and increasing physical exercise if possible. And talking about it can sometimes be enough in mild depression,” he said.

Research in Dublin indicates that depression affects quality of life in about 10 per cent of people over 65, but the condition often goes undetected, undiagnosed and untreated, he said.The booklet, produced by Age Action and pharmaceutical company Lundbeck (Ireland), is available free on tel: 01-4689800 and is to be distributed through GP surgeries and retail pharmacies.