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Published By Right at Home on May 18, 2009

Depression is one of the most common illnesses faced by Americans. It affects all age groups, including seniors. Yet depression often goes undetected. Right at Home recognizes the challenges of identifying and treating this medical condition, and we also know that in many cases, dealing with depression in a positive, medically appropriate way can make a tremendous difference in a senior’s quality of life.

It can be characterized by a wide variety of symptoms, including:

  • Lack of energy
  • Withdrawal or an unusual lack of interest in friends and/or usual activities
  • Inability to concentrate, or memory lapses
  • An unusual lack of interest
  • Disturbances in eating and sleeping patterns
  • Neglect of physical appearance
  • Unusual preoccupation with aches and pains.

What Causes Depression?

Sometimes it is triggered by a specific event in a person’s life (such as a loss, a change in circumstances, or a health problem that limits activities and mobility). A number of illnesses, such as stroke, Parkinson’s disease, or hormonal disorders, may cause physical changes that can also result in depression. Or, it may even be a side effect of certain medications or combinations of medications.

Just as it is important to determine whether depression is caused by certain physical problems, it is also vital to make sure that the person’s symptoms aren’t confused with other medical disorders, since depression may resemble other medical conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. The good news is that depression is treatable. Treatment may involve one of several possible approaches, or a combination. Talking with a mental health professional can help the person understand the origin of the depression and work to improve self-esteem and mental outlook. Several medications have proven effective against physiological causes. And an increase or change of activities can also help. It is important to take signs of depression seriously. Sometimes individuals are hesitant to talk about depression or to be treated; they prefer to “keep the problem inside.” But support from family members, friends and the person’s healthcare provider plays an important role in helping a senior with depression return to a happier, more fulfilling life.

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