Interview in Newband.in on Depression in the elderly.. on 16th January,2021
Interview by Ryhea George in newsband.in
Q: What is geriatric depression? How common is this in the present scenario?
A: The overall prevalence of depression in the elderly is 10-20 percent. The prevalence depends on financial stability, assimilation in the society, finding newer hobbies, cognitive abilities, presence of comorbid illnesses like diabetes, hypertension, etc., traumatic life events i.e. loss of a loved one, limited mobility and isolation.
Q: How does depression in the elderly differ from the depression amongst the younger individuals?
A: Depression in elderly may not always meet all the clinical criteria for depression. They may have low mood and lack of interest but the course of the illness may fluctuate. A number of times symptoms of fatigue, lack of focus and concentration, physical pains which are otherwise known as symptoms of depression may be present in the geriatric population due to other reasons and cannot be used as diagnostic criteria. Although, it is seen that in older adults it is often seen that they complain of physical pain, which cannot be often explained by medical reasons.
Q How can one know if the person is suffering from depression? When should one consult a doctor?
A: There are a few red flag signs that can be kept in mind. If the following symptoms persist for longer than 2 weeks then these need to be tackled. These include thoughts of suicide, unrefreshing sleep, increased irritability not in keeping with the persons personality, changes in appetite which has a clear onset and is unexplained by medical reasons, lack of interest, will and motivation to the point of hopelessness and crying spells.
Q: What are the risk factors of depression in the elderly ?
A: Women are at a higher risk than men. It has been found that lack of social support, loss of a spouse or partner, widowed, divorced, etc. Stressful life events and previous or family history of depression or psychiatric illness are major contributors. Consumption of alcohol, tobacco and other substances are also known to increase risk.
Q: What treatments are available?
A: Psychological interventions in the form of individual therapy helps them adapt to the new found changes in their life. Embracing the new roles and accepting the medical issues which are not entirely within their control, motivating them to accept a healthier lifestyle.
Life is not always what we expect it to be, understanding and letting go previous expectations and accepting the current changes one day at a time. Retirement doesn’t always mean termination. It can bring new hope, renewed hobbies and more time to explore self and the environment.
Medical treatment in the form of antidepressants are available. In the current times, the drugs available are tailored to the needs of the elderly so as to rehabilitate them and cause least dependency.
Q: How can family members contribute in getting them out of depression?
A: Family members have a very important role to play in helping their parents and family members stay physically and mentally fit. Social engagement by including the elderly in daily activities and making them feel included and involved. It is often found that they are treated as dependants and lose their authority and social status, this can lead to a feeling of loneliness. Children can help their parents involved in leisure activities and involve them with others of similar age group. Elderly may not be very adept at using gadgets and social media, a little guidance and help can make them feel involved. Regular communication and dialogue will help in picking up the red flag signs and provide assistance and care at an early stage.