Peter Jaret’s article in May’s AARP Bulletin is instructive. Of particular interest is his description of the symptoms of depression in older people. Unlike young people who may show sadness, elders may present with a constellation of physical complaints. They may complain of pain, difficulty sleeping or lack of appetite. Jaret, a freelance health writer, rightly tells us that depression impairs recovery from surgery, impairs blood sugar levels in people with diabetes, and can aggravate symptoms of dementia and memory loss. So overcoming depression is very important.
With such serious implications, questions turn to the usefulness of anti-depressant medications. Anti-depressant meds in conjunction with psychotherapy have a high rate of success. But we don’t know if the medications actually work physically or if they are the result of the placebo effect! To sort this out, I suggest that therapeutic interventions other than medications be tried first.
Here are a few ideas:
1. Start with a depression scale (like the GDS) to see if there really is depression. Many scales are available on line for free.
2. Help the person identify any problems with mood, behavior, thoughts, relationships with other people or physical health.
3. Learn about depression and non-medical interventions. www.yapko.com is a good place to find self-help materials.
If none of this produces a change, be sure to seek help from a licensed professional. Of course, do this immediately if there is any evidence of suicidal thinking!
Depression does not necessarily occur in the senior years and there is help to prevent it!