Depression – It can happen to anybody
Have you lost interest in the activities you used to enjoy? Do you struggle with feelings of helplessness and hopelessness? Are you finding it harder and harder to get through the day? If so, you’re not alone and it may well be that you are suffering from depression. Depression can happen to any of us regardless of our background or achievements. However, depression is far from an inevitable part of getting older. With the right support, treatment, and self-help strategies you can boost the way you feel, cope better with life’s changes, and make your later years a healthy, happy, and fulfilling time.
Although feelings of sadness and despair are commonly associated with depression, you may be surprised to hear that depressed older adults may not feel “sad”
Often signs and symptoms of depression in older adults include:
- Unexplained or aggravated aches and pains
- Loss of interest in socializing or hobbies
- Weight loss or loss of appetite
- Feelings of hopelessness or helplessness
- Lack of motivation and energy
- Sleep disturbances (difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, oversleeping, or daytime sleepiness)
- Loss of self-worth (worries about being a burden, feelings of worthlessness or self-loathing)
- Slowed movement or speech
- Increased use of alcohol or other drugs
- Fixation on death; thoughts of suicide
- Memory problems
- Neglecting personal care (skipping meals, forgetting meds, neglecting personal hygiene)
There are many possible causes of depression in older adults including health problems, retirement and loss of purpose, money worries, family problems and bereavement.
Symptoms of depression can also occur as a side effect of many commonly prescribed drugs. You are particularly at risk if you’re taking multiple medications. While the mood-related side effects of prescription medication can affect anyone, older adults are more sensitive because, as we age, our bodies become less efficient at metabolizing and processing drugs. If you feel depressed after starting a new medication, talk to your doctor. You may be able to lower your dose or switch to another medication that doesn’t impact your mood.
Many very simple things can help you to overcome mild feelings of depression: exercise, social contact, volunteering, taking up a new hobby, getting out in the sunshine and fresh air or walking a dog. Your diet is also important. Start by minimizing sugary and starchy comfort foods that can give you a quick boost, but you pay for it later when your blood sugar crashes. Instead, focus on balanced foodstuffs, which will leave you satisfied and emotionally balanced. Going too long without eating can also worsen your mood, making you tired and irritable, so do your best to eat something at least every 3-4 hours.
Sometimes though the depression is too deep seated and then it needs treatment through drugs or a talking therapy. At this stage it is always good to talk to your Doctor, but it may also be a good idea to call the Mind Infoline at 0300 123 3393. Their team has a great deal of experience of dealing with all kinds of mental health problems and they can give you good, impartial advice.
Age Concern Liverpool & Sefton has a Southport based Counselling Service operating on a Monday afternoon – call 0151 330 5678 and ask for Diane for more information.
It may also be useful to know that the NHS provide talking therapy services (counselling) to help older people with bereavement. The NHS local service which is open access to all elderly residents in Sefton without even seeing their GP is called Access Sefton and is available to telephone on 0300 303 2708.