Depression and the Elderly
By: Elaine Rotenberg, Ph.D.
October bared the torch for Depression Education Awareness Month, Emotional Wellness Month, Mental Illness Awareness Month, and a day dedicated to National Depression Screening. Although October commemorated these important issues, these issues are constant and, as an agency, Alpert Jewish Family & Children's Service will be here for you, your loves ones, and everyone well beyond the month of October should you need any assistance with depression or emotional troubles creating challenging times in your life (or the lives of others).
“Of course I’m depressed! Anyone would be depressed dealing with what I’m dealing with! My children live far away, my husband is ill, and most of my friends have died.” And so it goes. Another example of seniors believing that depression is simply a normal part of aging. This is a myth. Unfortunately, nearly 20% of the older population has this mental health condition that is not a normal part of aging. And, of those individuals, 63% do not seek help or get treatment. Changes in appetite, sleep, energy level, enjoyment and cognition that persist for long periods of time are symptoms that may be indicative of a clinical depression, the most frequent cause of emotional suffering in later life that significantly decreases quality of life. The ironic fact is that proper assessment and treatment of clinical depression can significantly improve an individual’s quality of life and their ability to cope with the very life challenges that are leading to the negative symptoms in the first place. Unfortunately, many older adults underreport depression because of the stigma associated with mental illness. More than 50% of visits to primary internists are for symptoms related to a mental health concern, although not presented as such.
Let’s help our neighbors by “destigmatizing” seeking help for mental health concerns. A proper evaluation by a psychiatrist, or ongoing visits with a therapist, can often be a first step toward gaining new insights and the coping skills necessary to regain enjoyment in one’s life.
Depression is NOT a normal part of aging. It is a treatable illness. If you have questions or are confused about whether you, a friend or loved one might be experiencing a clinical depression, please do not hesitate to contact the mental health experts at AJFCS. We are here to help.
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