Depression Can Effect Seniors Too

March 14, 2008 by  
Filed under DEPRESSION

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By Joanne King

One common myth about aging that many people believe is that as you grow older, you have a significantly greater risk of suffering from depression. That is simply not true, just because you are aging, does not mean you have to suffer from depression as well. All of us have to face difficult situations as we age, the loss of loved ones, the inability to do the things we once could, health issues, etc., but there are ways of dealing with all of these problems without letting yourself succumb to depression.

Current depression studies indicate that out of all adults who are at least sixty-five years young, only about fifteen percent show any symptoms that could be associated with depression. Since many of the symptoms that accompany depression can limit one’s ability to perform even daily care tasks, factor that in with the similar problems that come with aging, and many of those adults end up needing help in caring for themselves. So, if you are a senior citizen, it is important that you find ways to deal with your depression before it impacts your life, especially if you value your independence.

Another scientific study shows that elderly people who often have symptoms of severe depression for at least a six year time period are at a much greater risk of being diagnosed with cancer sometime in the near future. Not only are you more prone to develop cancer, leaving your depression untreated can also put you at risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease, which is the reason that many seniors end up in skilled care facilities each year. Family members just do not have the skills needed to handle this disease, no matter how much they want to care for their elderly, they are just unable to do so. Sooner or later, they will realize that they have got to seek help.

Depression should be treated, before it impacts your life. It is often more difficult to diagnose and treat in aging adults, but it can still be done. There are many diseases that have similar symptoms, which may cause a physician to overlook the underlying cause of all of the problems, severe depression. If there is a simultaneous medical illness, it is easy to focus on treating the illness, bypassing the depression altogether.

Elderly people often feel ashamed or embarrassed to discuss their feelings. They fail to seek treatment, thinking that they are just in a funk, and will get out of it on their own. Another reason that many elderly fail to seek medical treatment for their depression is the fact that they often live off of very limited incomes, and simply cannot afford to pay for an extra visit to the doctor, or for a new medication each month. If they do have Medicare, chances are they will still be left with a hefty bill that Medicare will not cover, especially due to all of the prescription plan changes that have been taking effect recently. They may have family that they could turn to for financial help, but for many it is a matter of pride, they don’t want to ask their children for money because they feel as though they should be helping their children, not the other way around.

If they do bite the bullet and schedule an appointment with their physician, they may have problems with the medication that is prescribed. The elderly tend to be more susceptible to the dangerous side effects of many medicines, and antidepressants have a long list of side effects with them. If they are taking medicine for other conditions, their antidepressant medication may cause dangerous interactions, especially if they see a new doctor and forget to tell him all of the medications they currently take. Seniors are often on so much medication that they have a hard time remembering when they are supposed to take what, and what the correct dosage of each is. The best thing that a senior who is suffering from depressive symptoms can do is talk to their physician. The physician should be told what medications are currently being taken, what the problem is, and how the patient feels about treatment. The physician should work with the patient to help find the best treatment plan, so they can start feeling normal again.

Seniors may respond better to treatment sessions with a mental health therapist, or a combination of therapy and medication. If you seek help and don’t feel that your treatment program is working for you, don’t be afraid to speak up and say so. You are the best judge of how you feel, and your doctor cannot help you if there is a communication problem. They take the information that you give them, and combine that with test results to try to come to a diagnosis and treatment plan. You are in integral part in your own treatment, regardless of the condition!

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.

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