Depressive disorders are estimated to affect 6.5 million people who are 65 or older, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. While the overall rate of depression is roughly 5 percent for all seniors, the rate of depressive symptoms rises dramatically for particular sub-groups. It is estimated at 13.5 percent of those requiring home health care, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and between 18 percent to 30 percent for seniors living in nursing homes, according to Dr. Maria DiTomasso, who specializes in geriatric psychiatry.
Depression can manifest in seniors in profoundly different ways, according to the National Institute on Aging. In some cases, depressive symptoms include waking too early in the morning, an inability to experience pleasure or enjoyment, guilt and feelings of worthlessness, and slowed thinking, speech and movement. In other cases, depression appears as negative mood with restlessness, agitation, impulsivity, irritability and inability to fall asleep. Another version might be characterized as masked depression with flat or numbed feelings, oppositional behavior and a number of physical symptoms that don't respond to treatment. One of the most serious consequences of depression is suicide. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, adults 75 and older have a higher risk for suicide than almost any other age group.