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Best Doctors: Recognizing Elderly Depression

How to determine the difference between natural aging and red flags for mental illness.
It’s easy to brush off Dad’s stubborn behavior or Mom’s forgetfulness as old age. But sometimes those false assumptions and stereotypes of growing old leave us incapable of understanding when seniors might actually need mental health care. With more than 200 medications commonly prescribed to elderly people with side effects that include depression, memory loss and more, it’s important to pay close attention to your loved ones. Two local doctors help explain what to watch for and how to help.

Changes In Behavior
Aging bodies change, and a decrease in appetite, for example, is normal. Coupled with unexplained weight loss, however, it can be a sign of depression, says Dr. John Kasper, geriatric psychiatrist at Summa Health Medical Group. The same goes for changes in sleep patterns, sleepiness during the day and restlessness at night. “The more important thing is not necessarily the amount of sleep, it has to do with the quality of sleep,” he says.

Forgetting Tasks
Memory loss is potentially a major warning sign of something serious. Losing track of everyday tasks, in particular, may be an indication of depression or dementia. “They shouldn’t be repeating themselves frequently,” says Dr. Brian Appleby, an associate professor of neurology, psychology and pathology at University Hospitals and Case Western Reserve University. “They shouldn’t be missing payments or doubling payments, missing medications — those sort of things.”

Starting New Medications
If Mom or Dad have just started a new prescription and there’s a noted change in their behavior, talk to their doctor. “There should be a lot of suspicion that the medication is contributing,” says Kasper. Even if older adults have been on their meds for years, it’s worth revisiting if they need them. “The longer you’re on a medication,” he says, “the more at risk you are to have adverse effects from the medicine.”


Arbela Capas


Steve Gleydura
Kim Schneider

August 9, 2018

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