How to Cope with Depression, Older People

Everyone feels sad sometimes, but if sadness lasts too long it may be depression. Here you will find information on how to cope with depression. Although depression may strike ‘out of the blue’ and for no obvious reason, there is usually more than one cause. Some of the common causes may include:

  • Death of a loved one – a spouse, close relative or pet
  • The onset of chronic illness or pain
  • Family history of depression
  • Financial worries
  • Loneliness.


Signs of Depression
Getting Help
Helping yourself stay well

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Signs of depression
Feeling low or sad is not the only sign of depression. Common symptoms will usually include a combination of the following:

  • Losing interest in activities which were normally enjoyable
  • Feelings of guilt – even about things that happened in the past
  • A sense of tiredness and fatigue even when doing very little
  • A prolonged feeling of sadness or being ‘down’
  • Being more worried or anxious than normal
  • Problems getting to sleep or waking early
  • Losing self-confidence
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Being snappy or irritable
  • Change in eating habits
  • Avoiding other people
  • Thoughts of death
  • Crying a lot.

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Getting help
Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. Accepting that you need help can be the first step to your recovery. Start by making an appointment to visit your family doctor. Your doctor may prescribe medication and/or suggest a suitable type of therapy.  If he/she is concerned, you may be asked to see a ‘consultant in psychiatry of old age’ – this is a specialist who deals specifically with depression in older people. The psychiatrist can advise you on how best to manage your depression.

Depression can be managed in different ways, including the following:

Anti-depressant tablets can help. These are not tranquilisers and are not addictive.  They can improve your mood, help you to sleep and reduce anxiety and agitation.  These tablets may have to be taken for six-eight weeks before you feel the full benefits. Like most tablets, anti-depressants may have some side effects – your doctor will advise you on these. It is very important to take tablets as prescribed. Ask your chemist to explain exactly how and when to take them.

Counselling/Talk Therapy
This involves talking to someone.  Talking with a family member or a close friend can help, but sometimes it may be easier to talk freely with a trained counsellor or therapist. The doctor can recommend one.


Helping yourself stay well
There are many things that can help prevent or treat depression. These include:

  • Talking to a family member or friend about any upsetting experiences
  • Keeping in contact with family and friends
  • Developing an interest or hobby
  • Joining a local support group such as Active Age or the Irish Countrywomen’s Association (ICA)
  • Eating a balanced diet, including plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables
  • Taking regular exercise – such as walking
  • Avoiding alcohol

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Psychiatry of Old Age Service
Within the Health Service Executive, Psychiatry of Old Age is responsible for those persons who have developed functional psychiatric disorders such as depression or dementia with behavioural or psychological problems for the first time over the age of 65 years. The service consists of a multi-disciplinary team led by a Consultant Psychiatrist in the Psychiatry of Old Age and can include an Assistant Director of Nursing, Community Mental Health Nurses, para-medical and support staff. It has a full range of community and hospital facilities available. The objective of this service is to provide prompt assessment together with active treatment in the persons home, thereby causing minimal disruption to their life.

This service is a community based service, following assessment in the persons home, a treatment plan is drawn up consisting of the involvement of Community Mental Health Nursing services and/or attendance at a Day Hospital, depending on the severity of the illness. The Day Hospital service is a key component of the service, they provide treatment of mental health problems on an individual tailored care plan basis. This service is supported by access to acute care in a specialised unit where appropriate.

Access to the service

  • Referrals to the service are by the persons General Practitioner
  • By consultant for patients in general hospitals at the time of referral

Other professionals who may be involved in assessing your needs and those of your carer at home include:

  • Public health nurse
  • Community mental health nurse
  • Social worker
  • Occupational therapist
  • Physiotherapist
  • Speech and language therapist.

These professionals can provide advice, support and counselling.

Other support services may include support groups, home help, day care or hospital facilities, respite care in a community hospital or a nursing home.  


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Information line: 1890 474 474


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Call Save: 1850 24 1850


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LoCall: 1850 440 444 Seven days a week, 10am-1pm and 7-10pm


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Helpline: 116123 hour service


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Tel 01-284 1166 or 086-8353387


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LoCall: 1890 777 121
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Active Retirement Ireland
Shamrock Chambers, 1-2 Eustace Street, Dublin 2
Tel: 01-6792142

Active Retirement Ireland is the largest national network of local and community based voluntary groups involving older people in Ireland. We believe that getting older is not a barrier to continuing to enjoy life, maintaining dignity and independence, making new friendships, acquiring new skills, sharing experiences and contributing to the community. Joining your local active retirement association is one of the best ways of achieving these aims.


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