While we all tend to feel moody, low or sad at times; some of us experience this feeling quite intensely for long periods like weeks, months or even years. Sometimes it happens even without any apparent reason. Losing interest in the things which you used to enjoy, feeling helpless and hopeless or finding it difficult to get through each day are all signs of depression. Depression is more than just a bad day or mood. It is a serious mental condition which has an impact on both the mind and the body. Depression can diminish a person’s quality of life and their bonds with friends and family.
What is Depression in the elderly:
Depression could come to any of us, at any age. But older people are at a greater risk of developing mental problems like depression. As you grow older, some biological, psychological and social conditions can combine together to bring about changes in your brain activities. This can cause an onset of depression. It is important to realize that depression is not an inevitable part of getting older, nor does it portray any weakness. When life gives you more challenges as you age; you can develop this serious, persistent and chronic condition.
Symptoms of Depression in the Elderly:
Depression can impact how an individual thinks, feels and acts. It makes managing day to day life activities considerably more difficult. This condition might make you experience a wide range of feelings.
- Moodiness or irritability
- Sadness and emptiness
- Negative feelings
- Suicidal thoughts
Behavioral symptoms include:
- Neglect of responsibilities and self-care
- Withdrawal from loved ones
- Losing the ability to function in day-to-day tasks
- Being confused and agitated
- Inability to seek pleasure in life
Physical symptoms include:
- Sleeping more or less than normal
- Slowed-down movement
- Memory issues
- Frequent headaches, pain or backaches
- Persistent fatigue
- Nausea, stomach upsets and changes in bowel habits
- Loss of appetite
- Extreme weight loss/gain
Causes of Depression in the elderly:
While the exact cause of depression is not known, there are a number of factors which can be associated to its development. Usually, depression does not stem from a single event. It is caused by a culmination of a combination of triggers. These may be:
- Family history of depression
- Abusive relationships
- Loss of income or independence
- Personality factors
- Drug and alcohol use
- Living alone or social isolation
- Presence of chronic pain
- Fear of death
- Recently divorced/widowed
- Side-effects of certain medications
- Admission to hospital
- Physical conditions like stroke, hypertension, diabetes, cancer, dementia
- Damage to your external look from amputation or surgery
- Past suicide attempts
Treatment for Depression in the elderly:
There are several different treatment options for treating depression. Either any one of these or a combination of more than one is used for treating this condition. The treatment
which a doctor might recommend depends on the type and severity of your depression symptoms, your medical history, and other current medical conditions among others. The different types of treatment include:
- Lifestyle changes: Joining a depression support group helps you to resonate with people who face the same problems as you. Adopting healthy habits like regular yoga/meditation, going for walks and engaging in light housework or gardening might be beneficial. Adjusting your dietary habits by minimizing sugar, carbs and focusing of protein and healthy fat will do wonders for your depression. Getting quality sleep of 7 to 9 hours each night definitely helps. Try to some time in sunlight or breathe in fresh air whenever possible.
- Psychological treatment: There are many types of psychological therapies which have been effective in treating depression. These include treatments like Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT), Interpersonal Therapy (IPT) and Reminiscence Therapy (RT). Psychological therapies such as these not only help a person recover, but also prevents the condition from making a reappearance. These treatments can be conducted one on one with professional psychologists or even in groups.
- Medical treatment: If you are experiencing moderate to serious depression, your doctor may advice you to take antidepressant medications. These medications are recommended when psychological treatments are not possible or successful alone due to the gravity of the situation. Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) can be exclusively provided by psychiatrists or specialists for patients who have not responded to psychological therapies or medications.
Prevention of Depression in the elderly:
It is a myth to think that older people of a certain age cannot learn new skills or hobbies, or make effective changes in their lifestyle. No matter what age you are, try these small steps to keep depression as far as possible from you and your loved ones’ lives.
- Get out and about: Staying cooped up at home all day will not do you any good. Try to get out in the world and enjoy the little things in life.
- Get a pet: A pet can keep you company as well as make you happy. Taking care of the pet will also be a form of activity for you.
- Join a class: If you are getting bored at home all day, you can join a class or workshop. It’s a great way to meet like-minded people. And there is no age limit for learning something new!
- Travel: Once you are retired, it is the perfect time to visit all those places you have always wanted to go. It does not have to be extravagant or someplace too far. You could simply enjoy a day of camping or a stroll by the beach.
- Connect: It is very important for one to stay connected with friends and family. Take part in get-togethers or call your loved ones for a dinner in order to keep the bond strong.
- Volunteer: Helping others is one of the best feelings ever. So, you can volunteer at orphanages or NGOs and help yourself in turn. Just make sure to indulge in activities that doesn’t put too much of a strain on your health.
If you know any loved elderly one who is undergoing a tough phase in life, the least you can do is lend an ear. Depression in the elderly is common but not normal. Receiving emotional support from friends and family is one of the most effective treatments for depression, especially in the early stages. So, watch out for the warning signs and make sure your loved one gets lot of care, an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.