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Depression and the Elderly

Have you been talking to your loved one on the phone, or visiting them in a nursing home, and they appear to be withdrawn, not attending activities as they once did? Have you, or their doctor considered depression?

Did you know that people over 65 are twice as likely to experience depression than that of the general population? Many physical and mental problems in the aging are diagnosed as "just growing old," but they may be symptoms of depression. Feeling unhappy day after day, not enjoying their leisure activities, or isolating themselves, are symptoms that should be considered as signs of depression. Also to be considered, are deficiencies in vitamins and mineral intake. Have they had a recent weight gain or loss?

Also, to be considered is a thyroid problem. Thyroid deficiency is more common then an overactive thyroid among older people. Age, in fact, actually increases the prevalence and the incidence is much higher among women. The symptoms are much harder to recognize in individuals over the age of 50. Although thyroid conditions are fairly common, they are often overlooked, or misidentified in the elderly.

Did you know that an estimated two thirds of depressed people go undiagnosed and untreated each year? Depression affects all aspects of one's life; i.e., health, leisure enjoyment, attention, relationships and sexual pleasure. Although, you loved one may deny any feelings of sadness, a markedly diminished interest in pleasurable activities and self isolation are signals to you that should not be ignored. Depression that is left untreated is one of the most painful illnesses, at any age.

The symptoms of depression are not experienced the same way for each individual. There is no magic formula. Some symptoms may range from mild to severe, they may be persistent daily, or they may come and go. Regardless of severity and/or regularity, depression should be considered as debilitating, and critical to one's existence. Some common symptoms include:
  changes in appetite
  sleeping too much, or too little
  fatigue, either physical or emotional
  difficulty in concentration, remembering, or making decisions
  feelings of helplessness, worthlessness or guilt that won't go away
  constant feelings of sadness, anxiety or uncontrolled irritability
  a change in attitude about money, sex and life
  new or increased problems with drugs or alcohol
  any persistent thoughts and statements of suicide or death
If any, or any combination of these symptoms, resembles the changes you have observed, medical attention should be sought. Other meaningful approaches could be more frequent visits and/or phone calls, encouraging once enjoyed activities, developing new interests and relationships and encouraging better health via some form of physical fitness and a well balanced diet. Most importantly from you, is understanding, encouragement, time and the gift of love.

  Depression Information: Psychology Information Online provides the information and treatment options for depression.

   

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