Senior citizens who experience depression often don't communicate that to their loved ones or caregivers. They may be reluctant to say anything because they don't want to be a burden, and they may also believe that depression is just a normal part of the aging process. However, there is effective treatment available for older adults who are experiencing depression. Following are seven signs that depression may be negatively affecting the quality of life of your senior charge or loved one.

Increased Irritability

Seniors who are experiencing depression often become more irritable than usual. They may snap at friends, family, and caregivers as well as cashiers, bus drivers, and others who work in the public sector and become increasingly demanding of everyone around them. If the senior in your life is exhibiting this behavior, encourage him or her to talk about it, particularly if it is reaching the point friends and family are beginning to feel alienated or if the situation is causing significant caregiver turnover.

Neglecting Grooming Tasks

Seniors who are depressed often fail to perform regular grooming tasks such as brushing teeth or cleaning dentures, washing and brushing hair, and showering or bathing. They may also wear the same clothing for days at a time and neglect to do laundry. Depressed seniors may also allow their surroundings to become disheveled. It is extremely important in the event that this happens that someone monitor the home to ensure that basic hygiene and food safety measures are met -- for instance, the refrigerator should be checked on a regular basis to ensure that all contents are safe to eat.

Slowness of Speech and Movement

A general slowing down of movement and speech may also be an indication of depression among seniors. Long pauses before speaking or talking in overly quiet tones are other signs that a senior may be depressed.

Sleep Disorders

Not being able to sleep at night is a common sign of depression in seniors. Some seniors may also sleep an abnormal amount of time if they are depressed, but insomnia is more likely to occur among seniors. It is important to note, however, that many prescribed medications can significantly interfere with sleep patterns.

Loss of Interest in Everyday Activities

Another symptom of depression is the loss of interest in activities that were formerly enjoyed, particularly if they involved interacting with others. If the senior no longer drives, offer to provide the senior with transportation to activities or to help find a reliable ride. Isolation itself can often lead to depression in seniors, so try to do your best to ensure that your senior loved one has access to social activities.

Aches and Pains

Vague aches and pains that have no physiological basis are another sign that depression may be a factor. Many seniors who report unexplained headaches have been found to be suffering from depression. Depression can also exacerbate existing conditions such as arthritis and rheumatism.

Unexplained Weight Loss

Depressed seniors may also experienced unexplained weight loss. This can come from skipping meals, from a general lack of appetite, or from not getting enough physical activity. However, it's important to rule out possible physical causes for unexpected weight loss because it can also be an indication of serious physical illness.

Keep in mind that if you are employed as a caregiver in a home health care situation, you may be in a better position than friends or family to notice symptoms of depression. While you cannot make a diagnoses, you can provide a listening ear as well as encourage the senior to discuss the situation with his or her primary health care professional.