How To Treat Elderly Depression

If you struggle with depression, or suspect that a loved one is depressed, it is important to seek help as soon as possible. Untreated depression, particularly in older people, can lead to a host of related psychological and health problems. In addition, untreated depression has been linked to suicide in older people. Therefore, if you feel hopeless or helpless, or know someone else who does, you should talk to a medical professional as soon as possible. With professional help and support, you -- or your family member -- will have the resources to start feeling better.

If you suspect you suffer from depression:

  1. Talk to your doctor about taking an antidepressant medication. While many of them provide effective relief for elderly depression, the side effects can vary so it is important to pick one that suits your lifestyle. Also be sure to discuss other medications you take to ensure that they won't have a negative interaction.

  • Expect that it could take a while for the medication to work. In older people, antidepressants are slower to take effect, so don't lose hope if the medication does not work right away.
  • Be sure to follow the prescription directions. Antidepressants must be taken as directed in order to be effective.
  • Learn more about medications you are taking for other health problems, since depression can be a side effect of some drugs. If this could be the case, ask your doctor to prescribe an alternative treatment method.
  • Make sure to eat a balanced diet every day, as research has shown that what you eat has an impact on depression symptoms. Also ask your doctor about taking a multi-vitamin.
  • Learn about the various counseling options available and participate in that which best meets your needs. For instance, psychotherapy brings you together with a trained mental health provider so you can address your pressing issues, come up with strategies to help you manage your symptoms and cope with your feelings. Cognitive behavioral therapy assists you in working on the conditions you can change while accepting those over which you have no control.
  • Find out about support groups or other counseling options operated by your health care facility or religious group. You can also take part in a self-help group in your area, so you can meet with other senior citizens who are also having a difficult time and find support from each other.
  • Reach out to your family and friends so that you are not alone when you are feeling depressed. The social interaction they provide may offer a helpful distraction.
  • Learn more about electro-convulsive therapy, which is a technique that is used in severe cases of elderly depression and in those where the patient can't tolerate medication. ECT causes the patient to have a quick seizure that jump-starts the brain. Over time, this has proven to be effective for some people.
  • If you are a family member or friend helping someone cope with the signs of depression:

    1. Approach her as diplomatically as you can and express your concerns.

  • Be there to listen and be supportive. Try not to sound judgmental
  • Remind her that you care about her and that she's not alone.
  • Suggest that he seek treatment and encourage him to stick with it.
  • Help research treatment options. You can ask for help from his physician, or contact a local mental health center, elder services or other support services in your city or town, or try an outpatient clinic.
  • You can also look in the phone book or online yellow pages under psychiatrist, psychologist or social worker.
  • Be willing to accompany the individual to treatment.
  • Help monitor his medication.
  • Remind her to follow the physician's orders, which likely include avoiding alcohol.
  • Be understanding and take every opportunity to show your support.
  • Listen and offer hope.
  • Encourage participation in various activities to help prevent isolation.
  • Provide opportunities for her to engage with others.
  • Realize that he can't control the feelings that occur with depression.
  • Remind him that things will get better.
  • Be prepared for her to have good days and bad days.
  • Look for drastic changes in her personality, which could be a danger sign.
  • If the person talks about harming herself, take this threat seriously and seek help immediately.
  • In an emergency, bring him to your local emergency room.
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