To keep it at bay, know its symptoms
By Himanshu Rath
Depression is quite common among aged people. Several studies suggest that every fourth person goes through mild to severe depression in advanced age.
As we grow old, each one of us experiences a number of psychological and physical changes, and when we add other factors like retirement, loss of loved ones, a decline in income, transition in relationships, etc. life becomes tough to deal with.
Significant changes in life and all kinds of stress put old people at risk of depression. Sometimes one is depressed but not ready to accept it.
To understand depression better, first of all, we should know more about the symptoms of depression in old age. Common symptoms of depression in old age may include:
- Sadness, Fatigue, Disturbance of sleep
- Abandoning or losing interest in hobbies or other pastimes
- Social withdrawal and isolation
- Worries about being a burden and feeling of worthlessness and self–loathing
- Increased use of medicines
At times, there may be no feeling of sadness but a low level of motivation, lack of energy, aggravating physical problems, anxiety, and irritability are also likely symptoms of depression.
Depression is a major social challenge that cannot and should not be ignored. Factors that contribute to depression in old age may include:
- Loneliness is caused by dwindling social circles due to deaths or relocation and decreased mobility of the older person due to physical illness
- Health problems arising out of illness and disability, chronic or severe pain, cognitive decline, damage to physical image because of surgery or disease
- Fears emerging from anxiety over financial difficulties or health issues
- Reduced sense of purpose caused by the feeling of purposelessness or loss of identity due to retirement or physical limitations on carrying out activities
- Loss of loved ones resulting from the death of friends, family members, spouses, other close relatives, and even pets
- Lack of mental support from family members/relatives leading to a feeling of being neglected, unwanted, and even redundant
- Nutritional deficiency causing physical and mental weakness
Let’s not forget to fight Depression in Old Age, both the suffering old people and the family members need to join hands and work together to bring back the golden happy times.
Helping Depressed Elderly
The very nature of depression drains energy, erodes self-esteem, and interferes with a person’s ability to seek help. In such a situation, it is the near and dear ones who should come forward to help the depressed older person by offering emotional support.
- Listen to the older person with patience
- Do not criticize feelings expressed by the old person but point out realities and offer hope
- Facilitate the older person to be engaged in activities that he or she enjoys such as painting, listening to music, watching movies, photography, and anything that provides mental or physical stimulation, as depression is less likely when the body and mind remain active
- Arrange social activities such as group outings, and visits by and to friends and relatives to combat isolation and loneliness; and be gently insistent if your plans are refused
- Prepare healthy meals consisting of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and some protein
Isolation and inactivity only worsen depression. Coping with changes is a key challenge for old people to keep active. Physical, mental, and social involvement always helps. Depression is not a normal or necessary part of aging and with treatment and family support, old people can get back to enjoying their golden years.
(The writer is head of the Agewell Foundation USA Inc. It is a 501(c)(3) registered Non-Profit initiative, committed to working for the welfare of destitute Old People desperately needing assistance.)