Guard Against Depression in Elderly
Published by Contra Costa Times
Posted on Wed., January 14, 2009
By Cesar B. Court
FOR MANY, SAVING financially is he most important part of planning for retirement, but it is just as important to plan ways to stay physically and mentally healthy, or depression may turn your golden years into misery.
Many who enter retirement are not prepared for some of the changes retirement often brings: increased time spent alone, lack of structure, and feeling unproductive, unneeded and lonely.
We often don´t realize during our work lives how much of our identity and self-esteem come from our work and career. The newly (and long) retired often need frequent visits with family, friends and social activities to prevent developing feelings of emptiness and isolation, which can lead to depression.
About 65 percent of older adults have some form of depression, and adult men over age 84 have the highest incidence of suicide in the state. A quarter of suicides occur among the elderly, compared with less than 1 percent in the general population. The elderly in hospitals and nursing homes are at especially high risk.
Depression is not simply feeling temporarily down or gloomy and it is not a normal part of aging. Depression is a treatable mental illness in which a person feels persistently "down," "pessimistic" or "hopeless" for weeks at a time.
Symptoms may include:
Once these symptoms begin to develop, a person may begin to shut others out of his or her life. This increases isolation and the negative spiral downward, and can lead to feelings of despair and suicide.
The National Institute of Mental Health estimates as many as 90 percent of people who die by suicide have a treatable mental illness or substance abuse disorder; most of these deaths are preventable. Historically, because of the stigma, depression in older adults has been underrecognized and undertreated.
Early diagnosis and intervention have a significant positive impact when treating depression, thus it is important to receive a "mental health screening" as early as possible when symptoms become evident.
If you suspect depression in an elderly person you know and love, what can you do?
Contra Costa Health Services will offer depression screenings in the Ambulatory Care clinics for those individuals 60 and older starting in the spring. For advice now, and to learn about the screenings, call 925-957-5105.
Court is the program manager of Older Adult Mental Health for Contra Costa Mental Health. Healthy Outlook is written by the professional staff of Contra Costa Health Services, the county health department. Send questions to series coordinator Dr. David Pepper at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more health information, go to www.cchealth.org.