Depression in the Elderly|Is it Aging?


Just like in children and in the adults, depression in the elderly is also a common entity. In the elderly people, due to the depression, suicide has become the leading cause of mortality. This highlights the utmost importance of a prompt assessment of suicidal tendencies in the older age group.

A lot of older people who contemplate about suicide often cite loneliness, hopelessness, and worthlessness as their predominating feelings. Hence, you should always be mindful when dealing with depression in the older people and find out answers to the following questions:

 

• Does the elderly person feels that life is no longer worth living?

    Does the elderly person think that he or she would be better off dead?

Are these situations noted in the elderly individual

• Episode or episodes of alcohol abuse?

 Living alone, or in a nursing home without relatives for a long time?

  Experienced recent death of a loved one, especially his or her spouse?

   Suffering from a painful and debilitating disease?

If the answer to some or all of the above questions is a Yes then it sounds depression. Depression in the elderly is not a normal part of the aging process. They are said to be the most vulnerable age group in terms of the effects of the depression. Some of them may feel discontented about their accomplishments in their life.

They may also feel despair because they cannot contribute to the society as much as they did during their younger years. Others may have experienced continuous losses in the family. These feelings, together with the fear of their own death, will ultimately take a toll on them.

There are also varying symptoms of depression in the old people. Some of them include:

         Withdrawal from society and usual activities.

         Prolonged sadness with frequent episodes of crying.

         Abrupt changes in eating and sleeping patterns.

         Generalized fatigue and slowed responses.

         Difficulty in concentrating and making decisions.

         Suicidal thinking and gestures.

In order to diagnose depression in this age group, you may use a screening test such as the Beck Depression Inventory, the Hamilton Rating Scale, or the Geriatric Depression Scale. These assessment tools consist of around 20 questions that assess the individual for depressive tendencies.

Depressive symptom also depends on the person’s cultural and ethnic background. For instance, people from Eastern countries are more inclined to report the physical symptoms associated with depression, rather than the mood-related symptoms. It is because they tend to share these feelings only to people close to them.

Depression can sometimes be confused with other medical illnesses, since some manifestations in depression such as fatigue and confusion are also fairly common in other diseases.

There are a lot of treatment regimens available to deal with depression in the elderly. These consist of both pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic measures. They are:

Pharmacologic

  Serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) – Fluoxetine

  Serotonin and Norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors – Venlafaxine

  Dopamine reuptake inhibitors – Bupropion

Non-pharmacologic

 Cognitive therapy

 Psychodynamic therapy

 Interpersonal therapy

 Vagal nerve stimulation


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