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A Crisis in the Twilight Years
Most people would agree that wisdom and experience go hand in hand with age – but unfortunately, there is a downside to the twilight years. You may have guessed it – we are talking about elderly depression. Although several million Americans are affected by depression in later life, comparatively few are appropriately treated for the condition.
This is possibly because the symptoms of elderly depression are often misconstrued in combination with the symptoms of other age related conditions. Consequently, treatment may also not be up to the mark. Elderly people often have to cope with helplessness, exacerbated by situations that rock the boat such as adjusting to retirement, deaths in the family – the death of a spouse in particular – apart from failing health in general.
While it is true that depression can strike at any age, depression in the elderly is in a class of its own. This is largely related to the often unique situation in which the elderly find themselves. Worse still, because age is generally associated with slowing down, the symptoms of elderly depression may often go unnoticed – and therefore untreated.
It is crucial to be aware of this fact and to bear in mind that elderly depression poses a risk to physical health and in fact to life itself. Elderly depression is also likely to last longer than depression in any other age group and may bring on cardiac symptoms as well. Elderly people are also less resilient and do not have the ability to ‘bounce back’ that younger people can almost take for granted.
It would help to be aware of factors associated with elderly depression. For instance, gender plays a part here, with women being more prone to depression than men. There is also clinical evidence of depression being brought on by chemical changes in the brain. Personal circumstances such as marital status, level of stress in daily life, the absence of a support mechanism and physical health problems all contribute to drag elderly people down.
Other factors that may contribute to elderly depression include the side effects of medication as well as a family history of depression. Apart from the factors mentioned, phobias and fear of isolation make elderly people that much more susceptible to depression.
Vital to the management of elderly depression is effective treatment. This will vary from person to person, depending on the cause and type of depression in question. Remedies may include antidepressant medication, sometimes in combination with psychotherapy. However, it is important for the patient to recognize that there are no quick fixes and that even the most effective treatment will take time to produce results.
Since the causes of depression in general are complex and particularly so in the case of elderly depression, it’s important for the individual concerned to be referred to a competent medical professional. Trust in and cooperation with the doctor, along with a healthy dose of patience should ultimately put him or her on the road to recovery.