We all feel blue sometimes, and thats OK. But when sadness and other symptoms interfere with our daily living, it might be something to address.As we age, we may be at increased risk for depression, but this treatable medical condition is not necessarily a normal part of getting older. Depression is not a character flaw. It is not a weakness. It is not your fault. It is an illness. While major life events such as bereavement can trigger it, depression is different from the negative feelings from a difficult life event. Depression causes feelings that are intense, chronic and out of proportion to circumstances. Depression can last for several weeks, months or years, often becoming a chronic illness like diabetes or hypertension that requires treatment. It is the leading cause of disability worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.Undiagnosed depression can have a physical toll. The National Institutes of Health says that adults with a depressive disorder or symptoms have a 64% higher risk of developing coronary artery disease than those without depression. Some people might be prone to depression due to their genetics, but there is no single cause of depression in older adults. The National Council on Aging lists these as some additional risk factors: Chronic conditions (about 80% of older adults have at least one chronic health condition, per the CDC) Decreased functional ability Reduced mobility Chronic pain Financial issues Elder abuse Caregiver stress Lack of physical activity Loneliness Symptoms of depression may differ across cultures, as well as by sex/gender. For instance, according to the Mayo Clinic, women are twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression than men. In men, depression often shows up as anger or irritability. Furthermore, symptoms of depression are often different from those in younger people. Sadness is not always the main symptom. It can be a feeling of numbness or lack of interest in activities, which is often attributed to age. Mental health professionals and healthcare providers may sometimes mistake symptoms as reactions to illness or life changes.There are several reasons why depression may be missed. Older adults may be isolated, with few around to notice their symptoms or distress. Also, many do not realize that physical pain can sometimes indicate depression. In addition, we may feel stigma admitting to mental health problems and may be reluctant to talk about feelings and ask for help. Certain medications and medical illnesses can bring on depression or have similar symptoms.As a result, it is important to understand the signs, symptoms and consequences of depression. According to the CDC, here are some of the potential symptoms of depression: Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism Feelings of guilt, worthlessness and/or helplessness Anxiety and worry Irritability, restlessness Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable Fatigue and decreased energy Difficulty concentrating, remembering details and making decisions Insomnia, earlymorning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping Overeating or appetite loss Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not get better, even with treatment. Memory problems Lack of motivation and energy Slowed movement and speech Neglecting personal care (skipping meals, forgetting meds, neglecting personal hygiene). Throughout our lives, we are told that lifestyle changes can improve health and wellness, including mental health. Meditation, breathing exercises and exercise can help people of any age.According to the National Institute on Aging, we can also lower the risk of depression by: Getting seven to nine hours of sleep every night Avoiding isolation and staying connected with friends and family Doing activities that make them happy Telling family, friends or a healthcare provider if they are developing depressive symptoms. Depression is easier to treat before it escalates. Health professionals can rule out any underlying medical conditions that could be causing symptoms of depression such as dementia, Parkinsons disease, heart disease or medication interactions. A primary care doctor can also screen for signs of depression and recommend treatment that might include medication, therapy or a combination of both.Many people with mild to moderate depression respond to psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavior therapy, which teaches new ways of thinking and behavior, and changing habits that might contribute to depression. Finding the right medication to treat depression is similar to treating some other illnesses; it might take time to find the right medicine, particularly with age-related changes to metabolism and drug interactions. The most important thing to know if you feel you or someone you know may be suffering from depression is you are not alone. Depression can be treated. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Courtney L. Whitt, Ph.D. is Director of Behavioral Health at Healthcare Network, which offers behavioral health services as a routine part of comprehensive care and traditional counseling services. Healthcare Network provides quality primary care services for children and adults in locations throughout Collier County. To learn more or make an appointment, please call 239.658.3000 or visit HealthcareSWFL.org.
Whats the key to aging well? Its just one factor of many, but engaging with spirituality and religion consistently improves quality of life for seniors, leading to several positive effects. At Amira Choice, strongly believe in the value of spiritual support. With that in mind, here are five benefits to embracing spirituality later in life.PurposeAs we age, transitioning out of our careers and moving past the years when were most needed as parents, it becomes extremely important to find new ways of engaging, exploring, and encouraging others. Research is showing that spirituality can play a part in helping seniors with healthy, positive aging by providing a sense of structure and understanding for our lives. Connecting to something larger than ourselves, serving others, and thinking beyond our own situation can truly improve the quality of our days.CommunitySeniors with spiritual support gain access to the rich community that characterizes faith groups. Pursuing connections and investing in relationships, new and old, makes every day worth celebrating. By attending worship services, joining book or Bible studies, and sharing open conversations with other members of our faith, we form and strengthen relationships that enhance our lives and when a senior living community supports and encourages religious involvement, the social benefits spread throughout the community.HopeSeeing challenges arise in our life and the lives of the people we love can be difficult to manage. How we handle those challenges, and maintain a sense of hope in the face of them, has big implications for our health in later years. Spirituality and religion can provide a strong support, lifting our spirits when we need it most. Connecting to faith gives seniors a mental boost to cope with illness and loss and helps them maintain the positivity that leads to recovery and new beginnings.BrainpowerKeeping our brains active and engaged as we age is hugely important, and spirituality provides a jolt to our brainpower. Studies have shown that practicing religion helps to slow cognitive decline, and for seniors living with dementia and other forms of memory loss, it can help reduce or stabilize cognitive disorders. Improving our mental capacity means improving every aspect of our life, from our health to our relationships and our daily activities.HealthAlong with increasing brain function and offering an outlet for personal connection, religion and spirituality provide real psychological benefits that help improve health outcomes overall. Seniors who rely on faith enjoy a more positive and hopeful attitude about life and illness, which actually predicts better health outcomes. They are less likely to develop depression and anxiety, and because of their renewed sense of purpose, they tend to have healthier habits and relationships. In short, belief, positivity, and hope lead to tangible improvements in our health and wellness.At Amira Choice, our faith-based programming is ecumenically diverse, and were blessed to have residents and staff from a variety of religious traditions. Visit the Amira Choice community near you and ask about the spiritual programing we provide transportation to, or offer in-house.
Having a bad day or feeling down once in a while is a normal part of life, but having these same feelings day in and day out is usually a sign of something worsedepression. In older adults, depression is not just having the blues or being upset at the loss of a loved one. Its a very real, but treatable, medical condition.Senior depression is not a normal part of aging, but older adults are at higher risk for experiencing depression. According to the Centers for Disease Control, depression in seniors can often be misdiagnosed due to healthcare providers mistaking depression symptoms as a natural reaction to illness or other life changes.While seniors are at higher risk for depression, the vast majority of seniors are not depressed. Additionally most seniors see improvements in their symptoms when treated with antidepressant drugs, therapy, or both.Here are some tips to recognize depression in older adults and how to get help:Symptoms of Depression in Older AdultsIt isnt always easy to recognize the signs of depression in older adults you may notice a plate of empty food or a loss of interest in hobbies that were once pleasurable. One of the biggest tell-tale signs of depression is prolonged feelings of sadness or anxiety that can last for weeks. Older adults with depression may also be experiencing:Feelings of guilt, helplessness, hopelessness, sadness, or pessimismA lack or loss of interest in activities that once brought pleasureDecreased energyInability to concentrate or make decisionsInsomnia or excessive sleepingOvereating or appetite lossExcessive consumption of alcoholThoughts of suicide and suicide attemptsCommon Causes of Depression in the ElderlyThe exact causes of senior depression are unknown, but experts believe it may be caused by a combination of factors in a persons life. While its important to know the symptoms of depression in older adults, its just as important to know what can put someone at risk for experiencing depression. Each person is different, but here is a list of potential factors that can contribute to depression in older adults:IsolationAs adults age, their worlds can feel increasingly isolating. Partners and loved ones can pass away; neighbors, friends, and family may move; and the ability to physically leave home may become more difficult.Medical issuesOlder adults may struggle after a medical procedure or illness. A surgery that doesnt allow a person to be as active as they once were or an illness like cancer, stroke, or chronic can contribute to feelings of helplessness.Traumatic or stressful eventsMajor traumatic events in a persons life can happen when theyre least expecting it. Seniors can be victims of abuse, experience the death of a loved one, or have financial problems that can all affect their mental state.Using alcohol or drugsCertain medications can cause changes in a persons behavior and mentality. Its always best to talk to your doctor about how your medications are affecting you or a loved one. Alcohol consumption can also lead to similar emotional changes.How to Help Seniors with DepressionThe good news is that there are plenty of ways to help and support seniors with depression. If you are concerned about a loved one who may be experiencing depression here is a list of ways you can support them:Talk it outCommunication is key. Having a one-on-one conversation with a loved one is one of the best ways to know whats going on with them. Sometimes just venting can help an older adult, other times you may find they need help, but are struggling to ask for it. Either way take some time to discuss what is happening in their life.Frequent check-insMoving to a senior living community is a major change for an older adult. One way to make them feel more at home is by making frequent visits or phone calls. Set up a schedule and carve out time to let your family member know youre there for them. Simple questions like how are you doing? and what did you do today? can go a long way.Schedule activitiesIf youre able to visit in-person, spend time playing games, going for walks, or venturing out into the local town. Set up an activity like going to a museum, a new restaurant, or seeing other friends and family to give the older adult in your life an event to look forward to.Accompany them to see a health care providerApproach this subject delicately, as your family member may be hesitant to seek help. By offering to join an older adult to an appointment, you can show that theyre not alone no matter what theyre going through. This can also be an important step for your loved one to be diagnosed and, if needed, treated.Moving to a senior living community can also have numerous benefits for an older adult with depression. Communities like Five Star offer a welcoming atmosphere that brings older adults together to make new connections and stay active with a suite of programs and activities.AlerisLife and Five Star communities believe a persons quality of life is ageless. At Five Star communities, we offer a wide range of senior living options built with a high level of service and sense of community. Contact us to find a senior living community near you.