Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Factors That Cause Depression Among the Elderly

Elderly individuals face difficult challenges as they move on to the golden years. The death of a spouse or close friends, medical problems and the gradual loss of function can lead to depression, especially for those who do not have a strong support system around them.

Even if everything else such as medical issues, death among friends and family, and a declining capacity to carry out daily functions is a normal part of aging, depression is not. In fact, a lot of senior citizens, especially those who exist within a healthy support system, are quite satisfied with their lives and continue enjoying things around them despite the challenges of growing old.

Depression is an issue that must be dealt with if present in the elderly. Left untreated or unaddressed, this can prevent older people from enjoying the remainder of their years and can take a great toll on their health. Old age should be a time for lesser stress and concerns, so it is important to know the signs of depression. Old people should be provided with effective ways for coping with depression, so they, as well as all the other people surrounding them, can continue to live and exist in a pleasant atmosphere.

The most prevalent cause of depression among the elderly is the reality of loss. Whether it's the loss of a spouse or friends, mobility, health, independence, or the end of a lifetime career, loss is painful. To grieve over the loss of any of these is normal, and the feeling usually lasts for a number of weeks or even months. But losing all hope, pleasure and joy, or a reason for living is no longer normal. It's usually a sign of depression.

Older people face significant life changes, but all of us do at certain stages of our lives. At whatever age we are, there are stresses, uncontrolled events and incidents that put us at risk for depression. Older people with a personal or family history of depression, unresolved relationship issues, a tendency for alcohol or substance abuse plus an inadequate social support system face greater risks than the average individual. Among the more common causes and risk factors that can aggravate depression in the elderly include loneliness, a reduced sense of purpose in life, health issues and medication, fears, and the loss of a spouse or close friends.

Loneliness and isolation among the elderly can be brought about by the natural consequence of grown-up kids leaving home to be on their own. The death of a spouse and a dwindling social circle brought about by illness, death or relocation of close friends can sink an old individual into a state of depression. Loneliness can also be brought about by decreased mobility and socializing due to illness.

The elderly usually experience a reduced sense of purpose, which spins off to the absence of a reason to go on living. There is a loss of identity and a feeling of purposelessness when one goes into retirement or experiences physical limitations as he ages.

Health issues and medication can also bring about depression. Especially when illness brings on an added disability or a cognitive decline, depression may set in. Certain types of medication also produce adverse effects that usually trigger and exacerbate depression.

A fear of dying or the fear over health issues or financial problems due to illness or as a typical offshoot of a loss of productivity can also trigger depressive states in the elderly. Suddenly, strong feelings and thoughts of insecurity fill the minds and emotions of older people, when once life seemed to be under their total control.

Although depression is a common aging problem, it should not be left unattended. In fact, only a very small percentage gets the help they need, since most attribute the feelings as part of growing old. Older people are also more isolated from the rest of the world, so their distresses can seem to go unnoticed by the few people they continue to associate with. And when old people go to visit their doctors, the emphasis for treatment is usually on physical complaints and not the psychological effects of aging.

Such oversight can result to dire consequences in some cases. Untreated depression can bring on very serious risks among older people - illness, alcohol dependence, prescription drug abuse and even suicide. So it is important for older people and the people around them to recognize these and get proper help when needed. With treatment and a healthy support system, older people can get through depression and live the more pleasant golden years. The truth is no one has to live with depression, whether he or she is 18 or 80.

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