Dear Savvy Senior,
Where can I get information and help with depression? My 71-year-old husband has been in a real funk lately and I am worried about him. He gets mad when I try to talk to him about it but I think he's ashamed to admit he has a problem. Any suggestions?
Depression is the nation's most overlooked and under treated public health problem that affects nearly 20 percent of Americans age 65 and older. Here is what you should know.
Everyone feels sad or gets the blues now and then, but when these feelings linger more than a few weeks, it may be depression. Depression is a complex medical problem that can affect your mental, emotional and physical health. Depression is not a normal part of aging or a personal weakness, and it's usually not something you can just snap out of.
While there's no one cause for elderly depression, it can be triggered by numerous factors like: a side affect to a medication, a physical illness (heart disease, cancer, stroke, arthritis and more), a disability, loss of a loved one or friend, a major life change, stress, low self-esteem, alcohol abuse, isolation, or it can be genetically inherited.
Are You Depressed?
Recognizing depression can be very difficult because symptoms can be subtle and will vary from person to person. Here are some of the warning signs you should be aware of.
A persistent feeling of sadness.
Lost interest in hobbies or activities that
you formerly enjoyed.
Feeling worthless or hopeless.
Inability to sleep or sleeping too much.
Loss of energy or motivation.
Not eating or eating too much.
Trouble thinking, concentrating, and
Feeling anxious, restless, or irritable.
Thinking about dying or killing yourself.
Savvy Fact: Seniors have the highest suicide rate of any age group in the United States.
Unfortunately, only around 10 percent of older Americans with depression seek help, mainly because they don't know they have it, they think either they can handle it themselves or they're too ashamed to admit it. Today various online resources offer seniors an inconspicuous way to understand and recognize depression and find help. The resources include:
National Mental Health Association: Offers a free confidential online screening test for depression, information on symptoms and treatment options, and explains the different types of mental health professionals. Visit www.depressionscreening.org or call 800-969-6642.
National Institute of Mental Health: Offers a variety of free booklets, fact sheets, and other information about depression. Call 866-615-6464 or visit www.nimh.nih.gov/healthinformation/depressionmenu.cfm.
Geriatric Mental Health Foundation: Provides a free Depression Recovery Tool Kit and can help you identify depression and locate help in your area. Call 301-654-7850 ext. 100, or visit www.gmhfonline.org.
Screening for Mental Health: Sponsors the National Depression Screening Day on October 5, at more than 8,000 sites nationwide. This is a free service available to people of all ages. To find a site near you visit www.mentalhealthscreening.org.
Positive Aging Resource Center: Provides information for older adults and caregivers on depression, and offers quizzes that can help identify depression or anxiety related conditions. See www.positiveaging.org.
The first step in treating depression is recognizing that you are depressed. The second step is seeking help, beginning with your doctor. Once you seek help, you'll find that there are a variety of treatment options to help you get back on track such as antidepressant medications or professional counseling or a combination of both. Other treatments options may include herbal remedies like St. John's Wort, light therapy for those with seasonal depression, and for severe depression electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) may be recommended. Most seniors improve dramatically with treatment. However, without treatment, depression can get worse and significantly increase your risks of cardiovascular disease and other illness and the possibility of suicide.
Send your senior questions to Savvy Senior, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070, or visit www.savvysenior.org. Jim Miller is a contributor to the NBC Today show and author of “The Savvy Senior” books.
Savvy Senior – Senior Depression: What You Should Know
Dear Savvy Senior,