Published on: March 5, 2017
by Sharon Johnson for The Mail Tribune:
This business of “aging well” is challenging in countless ways. There are the chronic diseases such as arthritis and diabetes, and those hard-to-avoid mobility and memory challenges, but there’s one aspect of aging we do not talk about much.
A National Institutes of Mental Health publication introduces the topic this way: “As you get older, you may go through a lot of changes — death of a loved one, retirement, stressful life events or medical problems. It’s normal to feel uneasy, stressed or sad about these changes.”
But “depression in the older adult” is not a normal part of aging. It’s a medical condition that interferes with daily life and normal functioning. Symptoms range from “a sad, anxious or empty mood” to “restlessness and irritability.” You may have difficulty sleeping — even have thoughts of death and suicide.
There are four questions that help to diagnose depression. “Do you feel very tired, helpless and hopeless?” “Have you lost interest in many of the activities and interests you previously enjoyed?” “Are you having trouble working, sleeping, eating and functioning?” “Have you felt this way day after day?”
If the answer is “yes” to those questions, or you looked through that list of questions and thought about an older adult you know and love, and the answer was “yes,” it’s time to explore treatment options. Start by talking to a health provider. Talking to a friend or relative about your feelings is also a good option. If you are that friend or relative, listen well. One way to introduce the conversation might be, “I think we should let the sad out.”
There’s a website that has good information about this and other aspects of aging well: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health.
There’s also a “treatment locator” you might consider: findtreatment.samhsa.gov/
And there’s even a telephone number to call: 1-866-615-6464.
As with so many other medical conditions, depression in the older adult is treatable with medications and various types of “talk therapy.” Sunlight can make a difference. Exercise helps. It might take a while to see the improvements, but you will.
In the meantime, don’t get too close to flames. In offering that, I suggest you try not to do too many things at once; be self-nurturing. Breathe deeply and repeat, “Smell the rose, blow out the candle” when you feel stressed or anxious.
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