Combatting depression among the elderly

Sometimes being retired is not really the best situation for a senior citizen.

Many of us have looked to our elders for their wisdom and experience, that they are the rock upon which many of us can lean on during times of doubt and distress. However, many of us are so busy with our own affairs that we hardly ever notice how our elders might be grappling with their own issues of abandonment, failure and loss.

The elderly can be susceptible to depression as much as anyone, but its effects on the elderly are not the same as it is on the rest of us. Compared to non-senior citizens, depression can be literally life-threatening for the elderly especially those who are under various kinds of stress. The most common causes of depression among the elderly include:

1. Loss of loved ones – those who lose their life partners to old age or disease will tend to become depressed, especially widows. It has been known that some widows and widowers eventually join their partners in the afterlife. Depression results in the rapid decline of mental abilities with very slowed movements and loss of interest in the usual things they enjoy.

2. Side effects from medication – because most senior citizens have maintenance medication, it is not impossible that these medications might cause depression with prolonged use. This has been proven to be true in the case of medicines for Parkinson’s disease (Atamet, Sinemet and Stalevo), hypertension (Tenormin, Inderal and Betapace), insomnia (Valium, Xanax and Dalmane), and mood disorders (Topamax, Lyrica and Neurontin).

3. Disability – after living a long and productive life, some senior citizens find themselves not ready to handle impaired movements, loss of one of the senses, or loss of a limb due to an accident or chronic illness. Many of them find themselves losing more than just a sense or a limb; they also lose their self-esteem and this can cause them to spiral steadily into depression.

4. Retirement – while this may not seem so bad in the beginning, there have been many senior citizens who have lost the zest for life itself after retirement. Those who have worked in companies for most of their adult life, feel very depressed after they are extricated from the only community they ever knew outside of marriage and family. Work is also their source of pride and financial independence and having these taken away, can plunge anyone into depression.

5. Lack of a supportive social network – those who move to other places upon retirement are susceptible to depression, especially those who have been active in their communities. Being away from their community, friends and family will drive anyone to loneliness and eventually depression. There are also seniors who may have children but do not want to take care of their elders. Elders who are left to uncaring relatives will tend to suffer more and become more ill.

If left untreated, the senior can become chronically ill and may leave us sooner than they should. We love our elders and we would all want to spend more quality time with them, benefit from their experience and wisdom earned through the decades. This, more than just numbers in a bank account, as what they would rather leave behind for us to benefit from. They would want us to continue the legacy of their good name.

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