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Depression in the Elderly

Recognising Signs of Depression in the Elderly

An elderly person may initially present for instance, with a feeling of sadness and teariness, but how do you know that is depression?  The elderly may be more susceptible to depression, and less likely to reach out, and their loved ones may assume it’s a normal part of ageing.  It’s not.  We share the signs to look out for, treatments available and ways in which you can offer support.


Signs of Depression


Difficulty Sleeping

  • Any kind of sleep disturbance, from not sleeping enough to oversleeping.

Negative Thoughts

  • If for instance your elderly loved one feels like a burden or keeps wanting to talk about their impending death.


  • Having the blues for no good reason, or unable to shake a feeling of sadness and frequent crying.


  • Always preferring to stay home watching TV rather than socialise.


  • No energy to take on tasks that once brought joy, for instance, gardening.

Increased use of Alcohol or Drugs

  • Seeing an increase in alcohol intake, quantity or frequency.

Weight Loss

  • A noticeable weight loss or disinterest in food.

Abandoning Hobbies

  • No longer partaking in hobbies and activities that once brought joy.


Ways to Give Support



Social stimulation keeps us active and healthy. Even with COVID-19 restrictions in place you can still “visit” friends and family, by arranging a zoom meeting, on Facetime or by having a group phone call.  Initiate conversations, whether that be about gardening, grandchildren or family memories.  Be open to hearing about feelings of loss, sadness and lack of self-worth.  Be willing to listen and be empathetic.



If your elderly loved one is mobile, take them for a walk around the neighbourhood or to the supermarket (if possible).  If bed bound play a board game, read out-loud or look at some photos together.



Check medications and talk to the doctor or pharmacist if you think there may be side effects or drug interactions affecting moods of your elderly loved one.


Keep a Close Watch

If you think there may be poor nutrition and perhaps even dehydration, or a sudden decline in health, take your elderly loved one to visit their GP and seek an action plan.



Medicare covers certain mental health services, including a Mental Health Plan that provides a number of counselling sessions.  Your GP can advise further on this course of action.





Medications (antidepressants)

There are several classes of antidepressant medication that are effective in treatment for depression.  These need to be prescribed and monitored by a Doctor.


Counselling and Psychotherapy

This takes place in individual or group sessions.  They can help to identify issues that contribute to depression, as well as finding better ways to cope with negative feelings and gain some control over the symptoms.



In some cases, depression may be so severe that intensive treatment in hospital is required, until the person’s condition improves.


Depression requires medical treatment and intervention.  If the situation is more urgent and your elderly loved one is in danger and needs immediate support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

If you would like to contact us with regards to short-term or long-term accommodation in one of our homes, you can phone us on (03) 9559 0400.

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