Depression is a mood disorder -one of the common mental health problems facing people today. Depression can interfere with a person's ability to function effectively and productively. Depression is common among the elderly population. Some view depression as a physiological reaction in the old age. But some researches deny this factor and point out adjustment difficulties in the old age cause depressive symptoms and emphasize depression is not a normal or necessary part of aging.
There are many psycho-physiological and social changes faced by the elderly. With aging numerous physical ailments such as diabetes, arthritis digestive problems etc emerge. In addition to these physical illnesses retirement, death of spouse, isolation, lack of recognition, financial problems, monotonous life style, lack of mobility can trigger depression.
Untreated and masked depression can cause various complications in elderly. Self harm and suicides becoming common among the aging population as a result of depression. Therefore, this has become one of the major public health issues.
There are many sings and symptoms visible among the elderly who are suffering from depression. Sometimes these symptoms are obscured and difficult to recognize. Many depressive elders complain of excessive fatigue, and loss of appetite. Their social withdrawal and isolation is marked and some abandon the interest in hobbies or other pleasurable activities. Sleep disturbances such as difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, oversleeping, become prominent. Some indulge in alcohol and other drugs.
Memory impairments are another factor in depression. Difficulty in concentrating and forgetfulness are common. Some depressed elders neglect their personal hygiene. Very often they can become irritated, nagging and come up with various accusations about their loved ones and caretakers.
Some of the medical conditions can trigger depression. Those include Heart Disease, Stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, Multiple sclerosis, Cancer, Parkinson’s disease and Diabetes. In addition, some medications such as Steroids, Hormones, Hypertensive drugs, Anti Cancer drugs too induce depression.
There are many ways to combat depression in elderly. Connecting to others is one way of breaking the social isolation. Helping others is one of the best ways to feel better and regain perspective. Some elders get pets to keep company. Participating in activities that brought enjoyment in the past also another effective mode to forget worries. Laughter provides a mood elevation. Therefore watching a comedy reading funny books, exchanging humorous stories with the friends keep the person happy and active.
Maintaining a healthy diet is essential. Consuming alcoholic beverages frequently can worsen the depression. Although elderly people have lack of mobility and strength, many safe exercises are designated for them to be active and to have an optimum mood. If the depressive symptoms are more prominent medical treatment and psychotherapy are recommended.
Aging population do no need to suffer in silent or otherwise. They can enjoy life as everyone else. Aging is not an obstacle to their happiness.
Dr Ruwan M Jayatunge