Advances in health care, diet, nutrition, exercise and medication have resulted in today’s aged population living longer and better lives. Unfortunately, depression is a determining factor in the quality of those lives, and many seniors today suffer from undiagnosed chronic depression. The causes for their depression are myriad, ranging from the death of loved ones, loss of independence, isolation from friends, family and community, and the simple facts of facing the aging process. Support systems for senior citizens that are facing depression are crucial for maintaining and elevating quality of life, and recognizing the symptoms of depression in seniors can be difficult for a population not often given over to discussing or sharing mental and emotional health problems.
As competencies and health changes over the lifespan, many seniors feel their mental and emotional health decline significantly. Maturing during an era wherein discussing emotional and mental health needs was considered inappropriate, many seniors suffer in silence and have their mental health needs go unmet. Stress from mental and emotional health disorders contribute significantly to declines in physical health, and can spur a downward spiral resulting in poor overall health and fitness, exacerbating existing health conditions, impacting negatively on relationships and resulting in a shortened lifespan and poor quality of life. The first step in establishing supports for seniors facing depression is to recognize the signs and symptoms of their disorders.
Depression can be recognized by some readily noticeable traits. A decline in communication and contact with friends and family, noticeably unhappy moods, withdrawal from preferred activities and valued social roles all signal depression, not just in senior citizens but in children and adults as well. A blunt affect can signal the onset or perpetuation of depression, as can decreased energy levels, loss of appetite and a general malaise. Talking to doctors, social contacts, friends, neighbors and family members about these symptoms can help caregivers and loved ones asses the needs and mental or emotional state of the ailing senior citizen.
An important plank in the treatment of depression in seniors is to recognize the loss of certain valued social roles as adults age and retire. Whereas a senior citizen may have spent many years as an important part of their professional and personal communities, retirement and the onset of health problems can rob them of these roles, leading to feelings of despondency and a loss of personal worth. Helping seniors to establish valuable social roles with family, friends, businesses and community organizations can go a long way towards helping seniors recognize themselves as important and treasured members of their respective communities. For many seniors, acquiring a new job or means of employment can help overcome feelings of low worth, and provide meaningful activities to their lives. The relationships formed by returning to work can create powerful and invigorating support systems to help senior citizens faced with depression.The information doesn’t stop now. Keep looking: Improving Emotional Health