Elderly Depression: 5 Effective Treatments

Elderly depression can often be difficult to treat due to the variety of factors that can contribute to depression in the elderly. Options for treatment of elderly depression seem more limited than those for younger individuals due to the higher likelihood of medical factors contributing to the disorder in senior citizens, dementia being particularly difficult to work around.

For those seeking help through medication, this also becomes more complicated, as their bodies may react differently than a younger patient, and they are more likely to be taking other medications that could pose a risk if combined with antidepressants. There are, however, 5 proven approaches to easing elderly depression:

1. Increasing Social Interaction

Relieving loneliness, through any method, is especially recommended for cases of mild depression. Psychosocial treatment can consist of participation in group exercise or group discussions about various topics. The topic need not be depression. Simple interaction with others often relieves symptoms of depression. Sometimes social interaction is not even necessary. Just going on a walk may be enough to deal with mild depression.

2. Light Therapy

Recent studies have shown that bright light can ease depression in many depression patients, including the elderly. Just one hour of exposure to bright light every day has been shown to have dramatic effects in battling depression symptoms. The wonderful thing about this approach is that it can work equally well on patients with dementia, since the light seems to cause a chemical response which is not impaired by the person’s connection with the reality around him or her.

3. Talk therapy

Traditional talk therapy is an old favorite of psychologists for a very good reason. It simply works for a lot of people. If an elderly person is free of dementia and does not suffer from a severe form of depression, talk therapy might be sufficient to deal with their depression symptoms.

4. Antidepressant Medication to treat Elderly Depression

If an elderly person’s depression is more severe, if it lasts longer or seems to seriously debilitate him or her, then it may be necessary to administer antidepressants. This may be necessary more often in people who suffer from symptoms of dementia as well as depression. Talk therapy and social interaction are often not feasible with such cases.

The recommended anti-depressants for such cases are serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). These drugs increase the amount of chemicals in the brain that stave off depression. However, these should be a last resort because they also cause thinning of bones. If you care for the elderly, you know that fractures, especially hip fractures, are a grave concern.

5. Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)

There is a form of shock therapy known as electroconvulsive therapy, or ECT. In general, caregivers do not have a good reaction when they initially hear about this type of treatment. However, it has been proven to have good effects in many patients and is not as violent as it may sound. One possible side effect, however, is loss of memory, so particular care must be taken in elderly patients who are inherently at a higher risk for memory loss than younger patients.