Depression Is NOT A Normal Part of Aging
Everyone feels blue or sad now and then but these feelings usually don’t last long and do not interfere with daily life and normal function. But with depression, symptoms continue over weeks, making daily activities very difficult.
Symptoms Of Depression
- Feeling sad or “empty”, hopeless or anxious
- Feeling very tired and loss of interest in favorite activities
- Lack of concentration and focus
- Not being able to sleep, or sleeping too much
- Overeating, or not wanting to eat at all
- Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
- Aches or pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems
How Is Depression Treated?
- Antidepressants may take several weeks to work and can have side effects.
- Psychotherapy can help people with relationships and situations contributing to the depression Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) recommended when medicines and therapy don’t work.
Causes of Depression
There’s no one cause of depression. Sometimes it’s genetic. Other times depression may be caused by past physical, sexual or emotional abuse. Depression may be the result of a reaction to death or loss. Serious illness, personal problems and substance abuse can all lead to depression.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is often referred to as “winter blues” and thought to occur just during the fall and winter seasons. However, after further study, SAD is considered to be more than a seasonal mood disorder. It is a recurring major depressive disorder that resolves within months. It is treatable with light therapy, talk therapy and medications.
As with general or seasonal depression, there are self-care steps you can take:
- Regular exercise outdoors, if possible
- Healthy sleep habits with a predictable sleep/wake cycle
- Healthy diet with limits on sugary foods and foods high in carbohydrates
Help Seniors Deal with Isolation and Depression
Seniors can be more susceptible to depression and anxiety due to life events and health changes. The coronavirus pandemic this year certainly has not helped. Here are some ways to temper the effects of isolation:
Treat Sleep Problems
Lack of sleep aggravates depression and anxiety. Try to keep a regular sleep schedule and bedtime routine. Avoid taking naps. Talk to your health professional about your difficulty sleeping. Possibly medication is appropriate.
Promote A Sense of Purpose
Take up a hobby like knitting or art. Seek out religious services online if faith is important.
Be Physically Active
You may be tired of hearing that exercise is good for you, but your body was meant to move! Practice social distance while you try tai-chi or yoga. Or try an exercise video designed for seniors if you can’t get out.
Watch What You Eat
Seniors should try to eat more fiber-rich foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and lean proteins to feel their best.
Virtual Healthcare Visits
Virtual doctor/nurse visits have been helpful to isolated seniors. Medical professionals can see the home environment and understand better how environment affects individual health
How Can I Help?
As a friend or family member your good communications can help. If you suspect a loved one or friend is suffering from isolation, contact them and ask how they feel. It’s OK to feel forgotten, fearful or lonely. It’s important to convey a feeling of compassion for them.
Ask about how he/she is eating, sleeping. Find ways to connect while being physically apart. Make a phone call or have a face-to-face video phone call. Write cards or letters. Arrange for an unexpected act of kindness. You can have a surprise food or personal care item delivered.
Everyone, at times, suffers deep grief over the death of a loved one. Is deep grief a mental illness? Medical experts term deep grief as “complicated grief disorder” when symptoms, such as these, last more than 6 months.
- Powerful pining for the deceased
- Great difficulty moving on
- A sense that life is meaningless
- Bitterness/anger about the loss
Medications can help with the depression and cognitive therapy techniques commonly used to treat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can help with the intense yearning for the deceased loved one.