Growing old is a natural process that all of us experience. As we grow old, we encounter problems and challenges that may shake us to our core. While some of us overcome these tribulations, many fail to cope and adjust well.
The elderly may have overcome many challenges in their lives, but that doesn’t mean that they’re immune to emotional stress and mental health concerns. In this article, we look at depression in the elderly and how counseling can address this problem.
The Problem Of Geriatric Depression
Geriatric depression or depression in the elderly affects about 6 million Americans that are 65 years and older. However, only 10% of those affected get the treatment they need. This is because depression in the elderly manifests quite differently and may be easily confused with other symptoms of illnesses.
Depression in the elderly tends to last longer and may coincide with pre-existing medical conditions that may worsen its effects. More so, those that have depression are more at risk for developing cardiac diseases.
Depression increases the risk of suicide among the elderly. Statistics show that compared to the general population, the suicide rate among adults aged 80-84 is twice higher. Due to this, the National Institute of Mental Health considers depression in the elderly to be a significant public health concern.
Symptoms Of Depression
Recognizing the signs of depression is essential so that a proper form of intervention can take place. The common symptoms of depression in the elderly may include the following:
- Loss of energy and constantly feeling tired
- Lack of motivation
- Memory problems
- Sleeping problems
- Change in appetite (that can lead to alarming weight gain or weight loss)
- Neglecting personal hygiene and/or forgetting to take medications
- Constant feeling of worry, hopelessness, worthlessness, or guilt
- Feeling of confusion and inability to hold focus
- Usage of alcohol or other drugs
- Experiences frequent body pains and aches
- Suicidal ideation or attempts
Possible Causes Of Depression In The Elderly
There are many possible causes of depression in the elderly, and they may be connected with an adult’s health and overall living environment. These causes include:
- Health Conditions
Pre-existing medical conditions like chronic pain, illnesses, or disabilities can affect an adult’s mental health. Enduring pain from these conditions can take a toll on anyone’s mental soundness, leading to depression. Some medical conditions that can cause elderly depression include:
- Heart Disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Loss And Grief
As the elderly go through life, they may experience losing their partners, friends, and family members. Depression can be seen as part of the grieving process, but it can lead to more harmful situations with poor coping skills.
- Losing One’s Sense Of Purpose
With aging comes retirement and a decrease in physical activities. These limitations can affect your sense of purpose, especially if your purpose is anchored with your work. Your sense of identity, status, and self-confidence can also be affected, contributing to depression.
- Fear And Anxiety
A person’s fears and anxieties can also be possible causes of depression. This includes their fear over their health or dying suddenly. Other issues like financial, health and family problems are included in this area as well.
Counseling Depression In The Elderly
Psychotherapy or counseling sessions can help the elderly with depression cope with different life changes they’re going through. Losing a family member or a friend, retirement, home relocations, and the like are major life stresses that can affect a person’s mental health. With the help of counseling, the elderly can manage their emotions and cope well with these changes in their lives.
The goal of counseling sessions is to find the root cause of the depression. Professional counselors will guide their clients to be comfortable with their feelings and identify the factors that cause them to feel depressed. Upon finding these out, the counselor can adequately make an appropriate treatment plan that caters to the person’s needs.
A professional counselor can act as an additional support system that you can always rely on. They can connect with you on your troubles. They will acknowledge what you’re going through, provide advice and encouragement, and share coping skills you can always use. More so, every session is a safe space where you can freely share your thoughts without any hints of judgment.
Counseling can address a wide range of symptoms and causes of depression among the elderly. Many doctors recommend undergoing counseling together with antidepressant medications.
Other Forms Of Treatments
Depression may be common among the elderly, but it doesn’t have to be the norm. Luckily there are many available treatments available for the elderly that have depression. Treatments may include medications, forms of brain stimulation, and psychotherapy or counseling. Changing of lifestyle can also be an essential step in addressing depression.
There are various antidepressant medications available that can stabilize a person’s mood. However, caution must be practiced when taking antidepressant medication. People who have maintenance medicines for their health conditions must be careful with what kind of antidepressant they’ll take to avoid adverse reactions.
- Lifestyle Changes
Adopting a better lifestyle can significantly affect a person’s mental health. To increase their physical activities, the elderly can find a new hobby or develop a new skill. Exercising regularly and eating a well-balanced diet are also imperative.
- Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)
When older people can’t take antidepressant medications because these can interact with their other medicines, ECT can be an alternative treatment.
To Wrap Up
There’s still a stigma regarding depression and mental health concerns, and even more when it’s the elderly who suffer from it. They may think that the sadness that they’re feeling is just a normal part of growing old, but it’s not.
When a person is deeply troubled by depressive thoughts, they must seek professional help and support. In times like this, a counselor can lift some of the heaviness you’re feeling. If you know someone who’s having trouble with depression, encourage them to undergo a counseling session and always provide them with love and support.