Depression is a normal emotional reaction to the various setbacks in our life. Depression is very common among the elderly. However,a common myth is that Depression is part of the aging process. There are many changes that come with age, for example, Health problems, retirement, death of near and dear ones, financial problems and mobility issues. All these lead to depression in elderly people.
The symptoms of Depression in old age can either be Physical or Behavioural.
Physical Symptoms of Depression
- Excess or less sleep
- Difficulty in memory retention
- Pain in different parts of the body
- Slow rate of metabolism, stomach upsets
- Significant weight loss or gain
- Reduced flexibility of joints and muscles
Behavioural Symptoms of Depression
- Sadness, hopelessness, helplessness and emptiness
- Lack of interest in pleasure or in being happy
- Isolation and withdrawing from social interactions
- Neglecting one’s responsibility and health
- Negative approach to life including thoughts of suicide
- Irritability, mood swings, sudden outburst of emotions either sad or happy
- Financial insecurity
The above are just indicative symptoms and may vary from person to person. Old age people might not even refer to these symptoms as Depression. It might get camouflaged as health issues or aging process.
It is very important to recover from depression and start life afresh. It might sound difficult initially, but we need to take one step at a time and slowly overcome it. It is never too late to learn new things, develop new interests or mingle with people. The following are some of the ways of overcoming depression in old age:
- Doing things that would give pleasure:Hobbies help in engaging the mind positively. Pursuing hobbies or by simply relaxing or hanging out with friends will help in bringing back fond memories of younger days and lift one’s moods. Engaging in social activities also helps in lifting the mood.
- Following a healthy diet and a regular routine:A balanced diet of fruits and vegetables with less processed and carb food helps in keeping the mind and body active. Eating meals on time without skipping one helps in maintaining good health. It is better to avoid alcohol, caffeinated beverages, foods with preservatives and fats.
- Bring about a positive approach to life: Changing our approach to life is easier said than done. Get out of the shell and mingle with positive people.
- Support Groups and Relatives: There is no limit to the love one gets from their children and grandchildren. Children are great stress relievers and it is good to be around them to forget all about depression. Talking to friends and sharing your feelings with relatives helps in overcoming depression.
- Be Active and Exercise: It is always good to be active. Regular exercise has been found to be very effective in alleviating depression as it increases energy levels and decreases fatigue.
Manish Bajpayee, a renowned geriatric psychiatrist in Pune says that sometimes Depression persists in spite of following the above steps. That’s when you need professional help. Asking for help either from family or from a professional doesn’t mean that you are weak. It is wise to ask for help rather than suffering Depression alone.