A Defeatable Devil: Geriatric Depression

A Defeatable Devil: Geriatric Depression

Old age is often portrayed as a time of rest, reflection and opportunities to do things that were put off while raising families and pursuing careers but unfortunately people often isolate themselves at this age. Isolation reinforces the sense of loneliness, feeling of a misfit in the family, society and eventually world. Thoughts like: “Nobody has time for me”, “nobody cares for me”, “I am not good enough” creep in slowly and negate the thought process. Disconnection from the outer world, dependence on others, and physical health problems like diabetes, blood pressure, cardiac, kidney dysfunctions, and osteoporosis slow down life in general.

A slow and gradual loss of interest in people, activities which used to be their choicest activities or one can say life as whole looks uninteresting to them. Helplessness, worthlessness and hopelessness, abandonment and low self- esteem; all the five major symptoms of depression take over and shadow their positive attitude towards life. You might have often heard old people saying that they are living the years received as bonus. and their actual age has already passed according to them.

There is evidence that some natural body changes associated with ageing may increase a person's risk of experiencing depression. Recent studies suggest that lower concentrations of folate in the blood and nervous system may contribute to depression, mental impairment and dementia. Researchers also suspect if there is a link between the onset of late-life depression and Alzheimer's Disease.

Regardless of its cause, depression can have alarming physical effects on older people. The mortality rate for elderly men and women suffering from both depression and feelings of loneliness is higher than for those who have reported satisfaction with their lives. Treatment programs for depressed elderly patients suffering from cardiovascular disease and other major illnesses usually take longer than normal and are generally less successful.

An older adult may also sense a loss of control over his or her life due to failing eyesight, hearing loss and other physical changes, as well as external pressures such as limited financial resources. These and other issues often give rise to many negative emotions such as sadness, anxiety, loneliness and decreased self-esteem, which in turn leads to social withdrawal and apathy.

So, it’s like a vicious cycle between physical and psychological issues, a cause and effect relationship between them. One leads to another. Nothing much can be done regarding the physical disorders except that they accept their doctors, trust their doctor’s advice and treatment.

All we can do is to make sure that they get an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Help them find a good doctor, accompany them to appointments, and offer moral support.

Speaking psychologically, if an elderly person is depressed, we can make a difference by offering emotional support. Listen to them with patience and compassion. Spend quality time with them for reducing their despair and loneliness. Introduce such activities that they feel involved in and productive for. Avoid criticizing the feelings which they express, but always point out the realities and offer hope. Make them feel that they are in their Golden Era and it’s time for them to enjoy the love and care what they showed once. If still things get out of hand, seek professional help instead of leaving them alone and unattended.

After all, they are the pillars of wisdom in society. They introduced the world to us and have so much for guiding us, to tell to us just listen to them!!

About the Author

Siddiqa Hussien

Siddiqa is Clinical Psychologist in Kuwait.

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