DESPITE the laudable advances in medicine even now in the 21st century and the billions of dollars spent on research each year world wide, some aspects of Old Age are still causing sad sorrow and trouble for many of our old folks. For them how to control depression has been the main cause of ill health in they golden years.
What is Depression? According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder (DSM-IV), a manual used to diagnose mental disorders, depression occurs when you have at least five of the following nine symptoms at the same time:
- fatigue or loss of energy almost every day
- markedly diminished interest or pleasure in almost all activities nearly every day
- insomnia or hypersomnia (excessive sleeping) almost every day
- significant weight loss or gain (a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month)
- recurring thoughts of death or suicide (not just fearing death)
- a sense of restlessness — known as psychomotor agitation — or being slowed down — retardation
- a depressed mood during most of the day, particularly in the morning
- feelings of worthlessness or guilt almost every day
- impaired concentration, indecisiveness
Older ones often feel they are being left behind in our modern fast –paced world and so tend to drift of into a state of loneliness, have a since of restlessness and show signs of indecisiveness among other things. However for a diagnosis of depression to be confirmed, at least five of the signs aforementioned should be present most of the day either daily or nearly daily for at least two weeks.
Help for Depression:
Many of our love ones are living with the challenged of old age and some do become truly depressed. When our older folks are suffering from depression, it’s a lot more than feeling sad, or, losing interest in things they enjoy. A thorough medical examination may be very beneficial. Clinical Depression is a medical illness, with potentially serious consequences; it is not a sign of weakness and should not be ignored. It is however treatable. Untreated depression can worsen and become so entrenched that the victim can resort to suicide.
Depress individuals should be encourage to concentrate on what they are able to do in they golden age rather than being discourage by what they can no longer do, this will help them to retain a sense of self-worth and usefulness. A United Nation report recommended that older ones should participate in community organizations and religious activities this it said would help in preventing them from drifting off into depression.
Many causes of clinical depression are linked to persons who are not physically active. Research has shown that exercise can reduce depression. The Harvard Mental Health Letter, commenting on research carried out at The Duke University Medical Center in the United States, wrote that “For some patients, physical exercise may be more effective than a standard drug treatment for depression,” the Health Letter stated that “Three groups of 50 people with major depression were given a different therapy for four months. One group took an antidepressant drug, another did exercise alone, and a third did both. After four months, between 60 and 70 percent of the patients in all three groups “were no longer clinically depressed,” However, during a six-month follow-up, the patients assigned to exercise therapy “were in better shape emotionally as well as physically; their relapse rate was only eight percent.” This was compared with 38 percent for those who took the drug and 31 percent for those who exercised and took the drug.
Exercise does provide help for depression so said the Toronto Star. Commenting on a study conducted by the University of Glasgow, Nanette Mutrie a lecturer with the university’s physical education department recommended that “general practitioners who have patients with symptoms of depression may do well to advise them to undertake a program of exercise.” The report further said “Aerobic exercise such as brisk walking and jogging may offer an effective treatment for people suffering from moderate depression.”The lecturer concluded. “The reason for the positive effects of aerobic exercise is that increased heart rate and oxygen intake may cause the release of mood-altering chemicals such as endorphins or that the rhythmic nature of aerobics may elevate a person’s sense of well-being.” We are therefore encouraged to assist the elderly to get involved in some form of exercise program.
How to Control Depression:
Although depression sometimes has an obvious trigger, very often it intrudes on the lives’ of older folks without warning. William Klebert, an elderly man from South Africa living with the challenge of old age, relates his experience after a sudden attack of depression. He states “your life is suddenly darkened by a cloud of sadness for no apparent reason, nobody you know has died, and nothing distressing has occurred. Yet, you feel dejected and listless. And nothing will make the cloud go away. You are overwhelmed by feelings of despair, and you don’t know why.”
The symptoms of major depression can be very painful. And even though depression is nothing to be ashamed of, older folks have admitted to feeling ashamed when diagnosed with depression. One individual said “after eight years of being diagnosed with depression I still feel ashamed of myself.” The individual continued “I find it difficult to deal with my emotional anguish. The suffering is sometimes so intense that I feel physical pain. All the muscles in my body hurt. At such times it is almost impossible to get out of bed. And then there are the times when I cannot stop crying. I sob with such intensity and become so exhausted, that it feels as though my blood has stopped circulating.” Fighting depression should not be left up to the depressed person only such ones should not be made to feel useless, all can help.
How to help someone with depression? Here are six things we can do to help the elderly who are coping with depression.
- First get the facts about depression. There is an abundance of information available Books, wed sites (e.g.) Wed MD and many others.
- Preserve Their Dignity: The elderly who are depress usually find difficulty in concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions. You should avoid becoming upset or annoyed, be patient with them there is absolutely no reason to go rebuking them.
- Listen Carefully: According to the National Institute of Mental Health, people with depressive illnesses do not all experience the same symptoms so it’s important that we listen carefully to provide the correct assistance
- Show Empathy: A common feelings associated with depression is the loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable, including sex. Therefore providing support would mean showing fellow feeling, have affection and being tenderly compassionate toward the elderly.
- Discern When Encouragement is Needed: Most people have felt sad or depressed at times. Feeling depressed can be a normal reaction to the loss of a love one, life’s struggles, or an injured self-esteem. But when feelings of intense sadness — including feeling helpless, hopeless, and worthless — last for days or weeks and keep you from functioning normally, your depression may be something more than sadness. This is when encouragement will be needed.
- Include Them in Your Activities: Just as Physical exercise strengthens a muscle, mental training conditions the brain. To stimulate the brain, we need to do new things. So include the elderly in your activities cultivate interest in fresh new ideas such as art, sculpture, word games, crossword puzzles, Sudoku, gardening, fishing or any thing that would generate brain activity.
- Bonus: “Whoever has this world’s means for supporting life and beholds his brother having need and yet shuts the door of his tender compassion upon him, in what way does the love of God remains in him? Little children, let us love neither by word nor with the tongue, but in deed and truth.”
It is estimated that, by the year 2020, major depression will be second only to ischemic heart disease in terms of the leading causes of illness in the world. However research has shown that happiness foster good health. A study of elderly patients revealed that over a nine year period, a happy, positive disposition; reduce the risk of depression in elderly patients by an amazing 50 percent. So let us do our part in helping the elderly who are living with the challenge of old age to enjoy they golden years.