Understanding Depression as a Mental Problem Among the Elderly
What used to be a lively and active man in front of his family and friends appears to be a totally different person as an elderly widower. Can this be regarded as a normal part or component of aging? Studies suggest otherwise, because what the subject is manifesting are the evident signs and symptoms of a prevailing mental problem among the elderly—depression. While depression usually exists along with other elderly-related medical conditions or illnesses, it is worthwhile to regard it as more of a significant mental problem that needs early detection and effective treatment so that the older people can just enjoy the remaining days of their lives. The inevitable but difficult phases in the life of older people, such as the death of a husband or wife as well as medical conditions, are considered as risk factors that contribute to depression among the elderly. However, it should always be taken into consideration that the elderly should be prevented or spared from suffering depression. This is because it is not a normal or necessary component of the mental state of an individual who is already on his or her twilight years.
Despite the demands of being an elderly, majority of the older people are actually contented with the outcomes of their lives. However, if left alone to suffer without understanding family members or friends and effective support system, an elderly can succumb to the impacts of depression. In effect, depression can forbid the elderly to just enjoy life and this can cost their health and eventually their lives. Therefore, recognizing and treating the indications of depression among the elderly would be an effective way to address or prevent the said mental condition. In so doing, an older people can just happily savor or share his or her remaining time with family and friends.
Importance, symptoms, treatment and prevention
In their online article, Segal, Jaffe, Davies and Smith (2007) wrote that the public and medical experts regard depression as a usual mental health condition that occurs among the elderly. However, only a significantly little number of them are provided with the assistance they need. According to the four authors, there are a lot of reasons why depression among the elderly is oftentimes neglected. One of them is the premise that older people have justified ground to feel down or that depression is actually perceived as a normal manifestation of aging. Another factor is that older people usually separate themselves from others, making their sufferings less noticeable. Moreover, mental health professionals tend to dismiss the symptoms of depression among the elderly, focusing instead on physical concerns of patients. Lastly, a lot of depressed elders are hesitant to divulge or discuss their actual emotions with family and friends and are even ashamed to seek medical assistance (Segal, Jaffe, Davies & Smith, 2007).
In effect, the results and implications of this medical lapse are highly important. This is because neglected and untreated signs of depression result in dangerous hazards to elderly as they claim a heavy toll on their health. The condition eventually leads to serious sickness, in addition to alcoholic and illegal drug substances, an increased death percentage rate including suicide. Therefore, it is significant to acknowledge the cautionary symptoms in order for depression among the elderly to be prevented, if not treated by the medical professionals (Segal, Jaffe, Davies & Smith, 2007).
Mathis (2001) identified the following as symptoms that an elderly is in a depressed condition:
Sadness, loss of energy, feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness, loss of enjoyment from things that were once pleasurable, difficulty concentrating, uncontrollable crying, difficulty making decisions, irritability, increased need for sleep, insomnia or excessive sleep, unexplained aches and pains, stomachache and digestive problems, decreased sex drive, sexual problems, headache, a change in appetite causing weight loss or gain, thoughts of death or suicide and attempting suicide. (Mathis, 2001)
The National Institute of Mental Health (2008) has recommended that depressed elderly can be treated in three ways: providing antidepressant medicines to a depressed elderly or subjecting him or her to a psychotherapy or the option of combining the two treatments, which was proven to be effective for belated indications of depression (“Older Adults: Depression and Suicide Facts,” 2007). The same source stressed the significance of awareness on the availability of various medications for the said condition. It is also noted that several medicines are effective for other elderly while some are not for other older people. These should be considered aside from the specific dosages and manner of taking that the medications require. Psychotherapy, on the other hand, entails the interaction of patients with a specific mental health professionals or experts who deal with the condition, the idea of suicide among depressed elderly and other related concerns. For “late-life depression,” a combination of the two kinds of rehabilitations has proven to be more effective (“Older Adults: Depression and Suicide Facts,” 2007).
As a person grows older, he or she has to inevitably go through various phases in life. Some of these add to their life achievements while a few of them, such as depression, are regarded as extra burden to their already fragile mental or physical conditions. Depression among the elderly is a significantly serious or even fatal condition that should not be taken for granted. It necessitates recognition of its dangerous implications to both the psychological and physical conditions of an older person. Understanding such illness results in a better identification of its signs or symptoms and an effective implementation of its cautionary measures and treatment procedures. In view of the above information, it is actually possible for the elderly, with the help of the family, friends and medical professionals, to overcome such mental state in order to just enjoy life and eventually impart a worthy life.
Mathis, C. E. G. (2001). What Are the Symptoms of Depression? WebMD. Retrieved May 14, 2008 from WebMD database
National Institute of Mental Health. (2008, May 13). Older Adults: Depression and Suicide Facts. Retrieved May 14, 2008, from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/older-adults-depression-and-suicide- facts.shtml#treatments
Segal, J., Jaffe, J., Davies, P. & Smith, M. (2007). Depression in Older Adults and the
Elderly: Recognizing the Signs and Getting Help. Helpguide. Retrieved May 14, 2008 from Helpguide database.