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Holiday Depression and Our Elderly

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When we think of the holiday’s we often think of joyful times with family and friends but for some of our elderly it can be a time of sadness, isolation and loneliness. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is prevalent during the holidays and winter season due to issues such as being confined indoors, missing loved ones (living or deceased) or chronic illness/pain.

Depression in the elderly looks different than the younger generations as it can mask itself as health related issues which often causes the depression to go on untreated. For example, symptoms like decreased or no appetite, sleep disturbances, incontinence, chronic pain, memory loss/confusion, mood disturbances and fatigue can be signs physical illness like diabetes or an urinary tract infection but they are also signs of depression.

According to the Center for Disease Control ) approximately 6 million elderly seniors suffer from depression and have the highest rate of suicide because as only 10% get treated for it. If you suspect that your loved one may be suffering from depression express concerns to their doctor as soon as possible. You may also ask for a referral to a psychiatrist for a second opinion.

Signs of depression are sadness, fatigue, loss of interest in socializing, poor appetite, sleep disturbances, loss of self-worth, feelings of hopelessness and increased use of alcohol/drugs and fixation on death.

OTHER RED FLAGS TO LOOK FOR

Unexplained or aggravated aches and pains

Anxiety and worries

Memory problems

Lack of motivation and energy

Slowed movement and speech

Irritability

Neglecting personal care

WHAT TO DO WHEN SOMEONE IS IN IMMINENT DANGER?

Call 911 for emergency services

Go to nearest hospital emergency room

Call National Suicide Hotline toll-free, 1-800-273-8255 or TTY 1-800-799-4889

Call your doctor

What to do when someone is not in immediate danger?

Acknowledge that their pain is legitimate and offer to work together on getting help.

WHERE TO GET HELP?

Family physicians, clinics and health organizations: Can provide treatment or referrals

to mental health specialists.

Mental health specialists: psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists and social workers.

Psychiatrists can prescribe medications as they are actual doctors but the therapist

and social workers work together with doctors to make sure seniors are getting medications and care they need.

Community mental health centers: provide treatment based on ability to pay, and usually have a variety of mental health specialists.

Hospitals and university medical schools: May have research centers that study and treat depression.

As a former social worker for the elderly and dependent adults it was my job to make sure they were safe and well taken care of. I fell in love with this population and although I have I moved into my new therapist (intern) role, I still want to help families and their loved ones with education and any resources they may need.

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