Psychotherapy for Depression in the Elderly

Psychotherapy is the treatment given for mental illnesses through counselling and taking help from a psychologist. The aim of Psychotherapy is to resolve mental issues, troublesome beliefs and behaviours of the person concerned and restore normal mental health. With the help of Psychotherapy it becomes easy to control one’s moods, feelings, thoughts and behaviours. Psychiatric counselling helps to change the way we respond to a situation and helps us to take control of the situation.

Depression is a feeling of sadness or disappointment that we experience for a long period of time. In the normal course of time everyone goes through various ups and downs in life. When the feeling of sadness continues for an extended period of time despite efforts to overcome it, it is called Depression. Depression is the most common problem among the elderly.

Depression in the older population occurs due to a number of reasons like death of a loved one or a close friend, chronic pain due to various illnesses, mental/physical assault and a change of place/location. Psychotherapy or counselling is one of the most appropriate methods of treating Geriatric Depression. Psychotherapy or Talk Therapy helps the patients to talk about their feelings, fears and the things that mentally disturb them.

Psychotherapy for elders aims at encouraging the patient to talk openly about their feelings and discuss the causes for their depression. There are standard psychotherapy programs as well as ones that are customised according to the individual circumstances of the patients. These programs are aimed at solving specific issues affecting the patient. According to Manish Bajpayee, a well-known psychiatrist in Pune, a Psychotherapist can help in treating depression in the following ways:

Bereavement: In order to treat depression arising as a result of the death of a family member or a close friend, the psychotherapist will first inspect if the patient has grieved suitably. In case the patient has not, the psychotherapist helps him/her come to terms with grief. They provide help by giving them emotional support through family and friends and create a social network so that their mind is diverted.

Transition/Change: People go through depression when there is a huge change in their surroundings. This can happen if they have to move from their favourite house to a Senior Citizen’s Facility or retirement from the job that they loved. In such cases the psychotherapist suggests ways in which the interest and passion of the patient can be used in the new environment to help them come out of depression. For example, post retirement, a husband may be encouraged to do household work and help the wife. He may be asked to develop hobbies that will keep him engaged productively.

Crime: The older generation is vulnerable to assaults and thefts especially if they stay alone. Depression arising after an incidence of burglary or assault might be severe and may need specific treatment for Post-traumatic stress disorder.

Chronic Pain: Chronic pain, lack of mobility, decreased social interactions and isolation lead to depression among the elderly. The ability to tackle pain decreases when you are already suffering from depression. Painkillers to tackle pain might lead to abuse and addiction. In this case, the psychotherapist might suggest relaxation therapies to reduce pain and help in increasing social activities.

Sleep Problems: Lack of proper sleep leads to a lot of complications, one of them being depression. A professional Psychotherapist analyses the reasons behind sleep deprivation and suggests ways in which it can be treated. Maintaining a good “sleep hygiene” by sleeping and waking up at the same time every day will ensure discipline and promote better sleep.

While depression is common among the elderly, it is not necessary that they have to live with it. By asking for help at the right time, they might be able to come out of the situation and lead a happy and healthy life.

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