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Depression in the Elderly: Treatment Options

Clinical depression mainly refers to the mental disorder which affects an individual’s feelings and thoughts, causing a negative shift in daily activities. While it can occur to any individual regardless of age, it can compound its effect on older adults. The failure to detect some of the symptoms associated with depression prevents prompt interventions critical at later stages in life. Therefore, depression in the elderly has been overlooked despite it not being an inevitable part of aging, thus, preventing affected individuals from fully living their lives.

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A primary symptom of depression in the elderly includes the lack of motivation to perform daily operations. As individuals grow old, they naturally lack the motivation to perform as usual. However, in this case, depressed individuals continually fail to take part in activities they usually enjoyed. Apart from this, a loss of interest in socialization also shows the signs of depression, with affected people withdrawing from family and friends. Such symptoms express the lack of trust in the ability of others to assist with the problems they face. Older people may also display memory loss due to the inability to remember small details in their daily lives (Serani, 2016). This effect on brain activity can also lead to slowed movement or speech, thus, impacting their ability to interact with others. Therefore, while the above symptoms may be a cause of concern in younger people, they are mainly perceived as a part of the aging process, worsening their effect on the elderly.

As a result, depression in the elderly has numerous consequences. In some cases, it increases suicidal tendencies and thoughts, posing a risk to their lives based on prolonged feelings of hopelessness. Additionally, depressed individuals have a higher risk of developing cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack and stroke due to the disruptive effect on the human brain. Furthermore, at such advanced ages, the increased danger of such conditions may ultimately lead to death. Depression may also cause physical impairments with aggravated feelings of pain and aches across their bodies. This significantly reduces the individual’s ability to move, thus, worsening their overall health conditions. In some cases, it may lead to substance abuse as a means of coping with their situation (Domènech-Abella et al., 2017). Increased use of pills, alcohol, and any other drugs may affect their cognitive abilities, putting them at further risk of self-harm or unintended hazards associated with them.

The need for intervention occurs when a depressed individual starts showing the associated signs. For instance, a continued lack of interest in relationships with family and friends shows the quest for isolation, requiring assistance to maintain their support structure. Apart from this, a sudden negative outlook on life and increased worries also point to behavior-related depression. Individuals showing such signs require help to cope with the situations in their lives. Additionally, mental health impairments, such as dementia and psychosis, suggest an underlying problem requiring medical intervention (Bourin, 2018). This may involve the development of delusions and reduction in cognitive functions which were previously normal. Consequently, the above behaviors show developing and worsening depression in the elderly, requiring immediate interventions to treat them.

Professionals may recommend a variety of treatment options to reduce the effects of depression and ultimately treat the condition. Such treatments include psychotherapy involving talking to a health practitioner with the aim of learning new ways of thinking and dealing with habits which may lead to depression (Domènech-Abella et al., 2017). For instance, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) may improve the quality of life in the elderly by enhancing problem-solving skills. Apart from this, the use of antidepressants may also help patients suffering from it. The use of medications helps to calm them down and provides relief from any pain related to their mental wellbeing. In severe case, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) which involves the implementation of brain stimulation using magnets or electricity can be employed (Bourin, 2018). However, this type of treatment can only be used in cases when other types of therapy and medication have failed to have a positive reaction in the patient. The use of these therapies ensures that the elderly can receive effective treatment that improves their quality of life.

Despite the availability of measures to detect and treat depression in the elderly, some still experience unnecessary pain due to overlooked signs and symptoms, which include a lack of motivation, isolation from the community, memory loss, and diminished speech and movements. As such, they affect the lives of the elderly by increasing the risk of cardiovascular disorders, suicidal tendencies, physical pain, aches, and substance abuse in patients. Furthermore, behaviors, including the lack of interest in socialization, negative outlooks of life, and mental impairments such as dementia, show a problem which requires therapeutical interventions. Professionals may, thus, recommend various treatment options, including the use of antidepressants, psychotherapy such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, or the use of electroconvulsive therapy to assist with the condition. Therefore, more efforts must be put into identifying the signs of depression in the elderly to ensure they can receive proper treatment guaranteeing a high quality of life as they age.

References

Bourin, M. (2018). Clinical aspects of depression in the elderly. Archives of Depression and Anxiety, 4(1), 26-30. Web.

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Domènech-Abella, J., Lara, E., Rubio-Valera, M., Olaya, B., Moneta, M. V., Rico-Uribe, L. A., Ayuso-Mateos, J. L., Mundó, J., & Haro, J. M. (2017). Loneliness and depression in the elderly: The role of social network. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 52(4), 381-390. Web.

Serani, D. (2016). Depression in later life: An essential guide. Rowman & Littlefield.

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