How common is depression among senior citizens?Depression is more than feeling sad or “Down”. Depression affects our thinking, our emotions, our behavior and our physical health. You might feel down, or empty. Some people have difficulty remembering, or can’t make decisions like they once did. Many leisure activities just don’t interest you any more. You have aches and pains that keep coming back, and your physician can’t explain it. A depressed mood, with many of these symptoms, that goes on and on and on for weeks and months is called clinical depression.
Depression is also more than the feeling of grief you experience after losing someone you love. Following such a loss, for many people, a depressed mood is a normal reaction to grief. Some people find it helpful to join a mutual support group, such as a widowed persons group, to talk with others experiencing similar feelings. But, if the grief does not go away within a few months, it may be depression.
Clinical depression is a whole body disorder. It affects the way you think and the way you feel, both physically and emotionally. It isn’t “Normal” to feel depressed all the time when you get older. In fact, most older people feel satisfied with their lives. Nonetheless, among people of 65 and over, as many as 3 out of 100 experience clinical depression. This is a serious problem, and can even lead to suicide.
But there is good news. Nearly 80 per cent of people with clinical depression can be treated successfully with psychotherapy. Sometimes, a combination of psychotherapy and medication works better, especially if you have very disturbed sleep, or can’t get yourself out of bed to do anything. Even the most serious forms of depression usually respond rapidly to the right treatment. But first, depression has to be recognized.
My spouse has been very ill for a long time, and lately, I have become very irritable. What can I do?Caring for someone who is chronically ill can be very stressful. We have a tendency to put off doing things for our self when we are caretakers, because our (spouse, child, parent) needs our attention and assistance. We forget that professional caretakers work in shifts, and are relieved by others after they complete a shift. Caring for a chronically ill relative at home rarely leaves time for breaks or days off. Unless you allow time for yourself, you will eventually suffer the effects of chronic stress.
Tension, or anxiety, is the most common symptom of a caretaker. This eventually leads to anger and desperation. If you are a caretaker, you need to take care of yourself as well. You need an emotional outlet, but don’t feel you deserve one. Caretakers should talk to psychologists to help relieve their stress, and to dissipate their anger before they give vent to their emotions on their chronically ill relative. Supportive counseling can help you cope with the stress of this responsibility, and allow you to maintain a positive relationship with the person you are helping.