Critter Corner: Is My Mother Depressed? 

Dear Angel, 

I talk to my mother a couple times a week. She would never tell me, but I think she could be lonely and depressed. This particularly came to mind when I read your article on positivity. I’d love to introduce some of those ideas into her life so she is happy and positive, and to help stave off memory issues. She is coming for Mother’s Day brunch on Sunday, so we’ll have a chance to chat. How can I tell if my mom is depressed or just in a temporary slump? 

Phil N. Sadd 


Dear Phil, 

Adult children can often miss signs of depression in their aging parents. Even if they do catch potential signs, they are not always comfortable knowing when or how to step in.  

The first step is to know what depression can look like in older adults. After that, it’s all about honesty. It’s important for family members to avoid being in denial about depression, so a heart-to-heart conversation could be helpful. Here’s what you need to know about depression in older adults: 

  1. Depression is not a normal part of aging.  
  2. The risk of depression does increase with age, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  
  3. Depression is more common in people who are living with chronic conditions or who have challenges in daily function.  
  4. When you consider that about 80 percent of seniors have at least one chronic condition that can limit range of motion or physical abilities, it’s no wonder why depression increases with age. 
  5. While the majority of seniors are not depressed, the risk increases for those who end up in the hospital, who need additional daily care, or who use home health care services.  
  6. Older adults also often take more than one medication, and depression can be a side effect of some prescriptions taken for blood pressure, anxiety, and even Parkinson’s disease. 
  7. Most seniors end up living with depression without treatment for many years more than their younger peers.  
  8. The CDC tells us that older adults are often misdiagnosed and even undertreated when it comes to depression or other mental health conditions, because many seniors simply don’t report that they are experiencing depression. 

Signs of Depression 

Similar to most disorders or diseases, seniors who are living with depression will not all show the same symptoms. However, these are some of the potential signs:  

  • Feeling hopeless or worthless; 
  • Feeling restless; 
  • Being more irritable or grouchy than usual; 
  • Sleeping disturbances, whether that is insomnia, having trouble falling asleep, or sleeping too much; 
  • Loss of interest in social gatherings, hobbies, or other activities they once enjoyed; 
  • Feeling tired all the time; 
  • Chronic pain that does not get better with treatment; 
  • Weight loss or weight gain, typically sudden in nature; 
  • Increased use of alcohol; and/or 
  • Attempts at suicide or other self-harming behavior. 

If you notice any of these signs that continue for weeks or months, it is best to suggest that your mother see her doctor. Also, be sure to show that you support her by saying encouraging things, listening to her, and spending time with her. Encourage connections between neighbors, family, and friends to reduce the risk of isolation. 

Hope this is helpful! Happy Mother’s Day! 


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About Renee Eder

Renee Eder is the Director of Public Relations for the Farr Law Firm, and gives the voice to the Critters of Critter Corner. Renee’s poodle, Penny, is an official comfort dog who she and her children bring to visit with seniors who are in the early stages of dementia at a local senior home once a month.

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