AMARILLO Life is full of changes. But as a person ages, those changes may come more frequently and be harder to face, said an expert from Texas Cooperative Extension.
And that could lead to depression.
“Though there is no one cause for depression, a sense of loss may be the greatest cause,” said Andrew Crocker, Extension program specialist in gerontology and health. “Loss is common in the older adult population: loss of independence, loss of friends and family, loss of income.” But this sense of loss isn’t the only cause of depression, he said.
Depression is also sometimes caused by chemical imbalances in the brain. Some cases of depression seem to have no explanation.
Depression isn’t all that uncommon either, especially among older people.
“Experts estimate that about 25 percent of adults over age 65 have one or more symptoms of depression,” Crocker said.
He listed some of these symptoms:
- Feelings of emptiness or continuing sadness;
- Lack of energy;
- Loss of pleasure in daily routine;
- Social isolation;
- Changes in sleeping patterns;
- Changes in appetite;
- Uncontrollable crying;
- Difficulty in focusing or making decisions; and
- Thoughts of death or suicide.
Even though these symptoms are common, keep in mind that different people express depression in different ways, Crocker said. “Depression may even be able to hide behind a smiling face.”
Whatever the cause, Crocker said, and whatever the symptoms, “The thing to remember about depression is that it is mostly treatable with therapy, medications or both.”
The first step is admitting there is a problem, he said. “Only then will you or your loved one be able to seek the treatment needed.”
Treatments may include support group therapy which may be available at low or no cost from local senior organizations or one-on-one counseling.
“Your health provider or your therapist may recommend that you begin taking some sort of medication for depression,” Crocker said. “These medications may help improve your mood, sleep, appetite and concentration.”
Medicare or personal health insurance may help cover the cost of these treatments.
To help stop depression before it starts, Crocker recommended:
- Preparing for anticipated major life-changing events such as retirement or moving to a new home.
- Maintaining established friendships while making new ones. “Interaction with others is one of the most effective ways to keep depression from affecting your life,” he said.
- Maintaining old hobbies and developing new ones. These on-going and growing interests help keep the mind sharp.
- Keeping physically fit and eating a balanced diet.
“The best recommendation is to stay active: physically, mentally and socially,” Crocker said. “Remember not to stretch yourself too thin in the process. You will know when you have taken on too much.”
For more information contact an Extension agent or visit the Geriatric Mental Health Foundation’s depression consumer / patient information page at http://www.gmhfonline.org/gmhf/consumer/depression.html .