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According to the Pew Research Center, only a third of adults in this country say they are very happy. This, despite guarantees of enormous freedoms in defining our lives. Some tell us that ‘depressive disorders’ only became more common after we grew up and ‘became a Prozac nation.’
We need to understand that statistics in the public domain tell us that:
-2 million seniors in the U.S. have been diagnosed with depressive disorders;
-An estimated 5 million elderly have subsyndromal depression, that is where symptoms don’t quite meet the full diagnostic criteria but evidence an increased risk of major depression;
-About half of nursing facility residents have major symptoms of depression;
-Seniors who are depressed are moved into nursing homes 1 ½ faster than non-depressed residents;
-As much as 75% of patients experience end-of-life depression.
Contrary to popular belief, depression is not an illness normal to aging.
From time to time, we all experience feelings of sadness, emptiness, even unworthiness. But when these feelings become pervasive and constant, interfering with our work, our physical health and our relationships, thus creating a disability, then it is time to TAKE NOTICE and TAKE ACTION.
Symptoms of depression can include losing a job, poor-quality work, decreased productivity, excessive sick days from work, unusual problems in relationships with family, friends and coworkers. Not infrequently, suicide attempts may result in injury, disability or death. All demonstrate a devaluing of self and a lack of care – a clear signal that help is needed.
Statistics tell us that women are 50% more likely than men to suffer from depression.
Women are more prone to feeling guilt and anxiety, retreat into sleep or food for comfort and experience weight gain. Women’s higher risk for developing depression is usually ascribed to the normal hormone fluctuations throughout women’s lives, to severe cases of premenstrual syndrome, and to hormonal and physical changes that accompany pregnancy and childbirth.
Risks of depression seem to increase in older adults.
This can be ascribed to a concentration of life changes in senior years, such as chronic illness, financial problems, loss of independence, and especially physical and emotional isolation often coupled with an emotional vulnerability common to the elderly. Persistent depression that interferes with the ability to function is not normal.
Depression can and should be treated when it occurs just as other medical illnesses are treated.
It is important to remember that depression is the most important risk factor for suicide in the elderly. And as previously stated, patients and families need to understand that depression is not a normal part of aging.
Depression is a serious illness. Mental health professionals should be engaged at the outset. Their recommendations will help assess the severity of the depression and the appropriate level of treatment. The good news is that treatment usually works and may even help other medical problems of older adults.
By: Hazel Kuchsinsky, APRN-BC, . is a community reporter and Charter Member with The Village Connector Community News. She the CEO of Ivory House Health Services, a Nursing Care Management Company and Residential Services Agency.