Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Depression in Senior Citizens

Depression is a medical condition that is characterized by feeling down, depressed, or hopeless; low self-esteem; and loss of interest in things one used to enjoy. Senior citizens are prone to life-altering changes that can lead one to feel depressed. Dealing with the trials life throws at us such as, loss, change, loneliness, or a chronic medical condition can be quite overwhelming. Still, depression is not a "normal" part of aging. Like heart disease or diabetes, depression is a medical condition and it can be treated with medication and therapy. Treatment is effective at alleviating symptoms within a few weeks in at least 80 percent of people. 

It is important that senior citizens and those providing their elder care understand the symptoms of depression. If you think you or someone you know may be suffering from depression, identify your symptoms by using the checklist provided below. Then, if necessary, seek assistance. For senior citizens, the most frequently used resource is a family doctor. Bringing a trusted friend or relative may help ease any anxiety when going to an appointment. Understand that your doctor may suggest a checkup and begin treatment or refer you to a mental health specialist.

Before you say, "I'm okay"....

Do you feel:

  • Anxious or "empty"

  • Guilty or useless

  • Agitated or irritable

  • Less interested in things you used to enjoy

  • Like no one loves you

  • Life is not worth living

Or if you are:

  • A change in sleeping habits

  • A change in eating habits

  • Persistent headaches, stomach aches, or pain

Remember that these may be real symptoms of a real medical condition that can be effectively treated. Talk to your doctor today. Though many senior citizens suffer from depression, feeling depressed is not a normal part of aging.

Health and Wellness tips

There are many measures senior citizens can take to help relieve the symptoms of depression. Those involved in the elder care of senior citizens experiencing depression should encourage the senior to follow these tips and improve their wellbeing. 

Check your medications. Senior citizens often take many medications. Some medications, including those for sleep, blood pressure, and nervousness, may affect mood. Talk with your doctor about each of the medications you are taking. Be sure to include all over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal supplements to minimize the chances of having side effects. 

Limit alcohol consumption. Alcohol use can bring about depression. And, when alcohol and drugs are combined, interactions that lead to depression can occur. 

Stay connected. Sometimes, senior citizens find it more difficult to get out and stay connected with others. Still, talking with friends and family members, getting a pet, or even finding a new interest or hobby can help one through this tough time.  Get involved in activities you take pleasure in, such as reading a good book, going to a ballgame or a taking a class in a subject that interests to you.

Be active. Physical activity can improve physical and mental wellbeing. Though some senior citizens believe they cannot exercise, there are activities like walking, gardening, or working out (even if one is in a wheelchair) that can be helpful. Make a goal of 30 minutes of activity 5 days a week. If you have not taken part in physical activity in a while, be sure to check with your doctor and get his OK before you begin.

Eat healthy and drink plenty of fluids. Choose healthy snacks like fruits, vegetables, yogurt, or nuts to increase your nutrition and energy. Also, try to eat well-balanced meals.  Some senior citizens suffer from loss of appetite and weight loss; if you have experienced either of these, consult your doctor.

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