Depression can be daunting, embarrassing, and not easy to discuss. However, when properly diagnosed and treated, depression can often be successfully managed and even overcome depending on individual circumstances.
While depression is not a part of the normal aging process, it is reported to affect the lives of approximately one-fourth of seniors age 65 and older. Detecting depression in seniors is crucial as even minimal bouts of the condition can impact both physical and mental health.
Depression can be hard to detect in seniors for several reasons and the very same reasons make it critical to determine the underlying cause of depression so it can be treated accordingly. Some medications seniors take may alter their moods. Grief over the loss of a spouse may also be mistaken for depression. Other seniors who have medical conditions such as cancer battle depression as a result of having the disease. Depression can present with no particular tangible cause, due simply to a chemical imbalance in the body.
Depression screenings help determine if a senior is suffering true depression, is going through a stage of the blues, or experiencing feelings that occur during the grieving process. Again, identifying the underlying cause dictates proper treatment. For example, seniors feeling the sadness of grief can expect their moods to level out over time whereas seniors who suffer depression may experience its effects for prolonged periods. While those who suffer grief can get help from support groups and grief counselors, seniors who suffer depression may need medication as well as the continuous help of a mental health professional.
Once depression has been diagnosed, there are ways to help alleviate its affects. With the help of health professionals, plans for success in overcoming depression can be formed and progress can be achieved. Included in those plans may be a few of the ideas below, as some of these activities are touted by health care providers as being beneficial in cultivating and maintaining good mental health.
Physical exercise such as walking or riding a bike can help elevate moods. Many seniors enjoy group exercise activities such as Tai Chi or yoga. Tai Chi is a graceful form of martial arts designed to strengthen core muscles and promote agility, which can help improve balance and prevent falls for seniors. Yoga is known for its beneficial stretching and relaxation techniques. Both activities promote stronger muscle tone and encourage one to become more in tune with their own bodies.
Those who have a group of friends to pal around with are rewarded with a sense of purpose and greater feelings of fulfillment. For seniors, especially those who tend to isolate themselves as they grow older, socializing is essential. Peers can make you laugh, lend a helping hand and offer a shoulder to cry on. Friends who stick together also tend to notice if another in the group is acting differently than he or she normally does.
It is important that seniors learn to make themselves their own number one priority. This includes paying attention not only to physical changes as they age but to tune in to any mental changes, as well. Encourage yearly mental health screenings for depression and discussions with doctors to help seniors determine changes they may undergo when depression may be the culprit.
Striving for good mental health is as important as maintaining physical health for people of all ages, but especially for seniors. Maintaining overall good health can lead to long, successful, and independent living for hopefully many years to come.
Helpguide.org. Depression in older adults and the elderly. Retrieved on September 22, 2012 from helpguide.org/mental/depression_elderly.htm.
The Huffington Post. 7 ways to beat depression for seniors. Retrieved on September 22, 2012 from huffingtonpost.com/therese-borchard/7-ways-to-beat-depression_b_499255.html.
Friedman, Michael. L.M.S.W. Elderly depression and how it can be overcome. Retrieved on September 22, 2012 from huffingtonpost.com/michael-friedman-lmsw/elderly-depression_b_884488.html.