Depression is a normal part of aging, right? WRONG

November 18, 2011; By: Audrey Miller
All About Estates

Older adults who are over the age of 60 are five times more likely to have a higher risk rate of suicide than younger people.

Depression is the most common mental health concern for older adults, affecting between 15 to 20 percent of older adults living in the community. It is not a normal part of aging. Symptoms such as decreased energy, poor sleep and preoccupation with health problems should be viewed as possible symptoms of a treatable illness and are NOT a result of the aging process. Treatment for depression works, yet too many people remain undiagnosed and untreated because they don’t recognize the signs and symptoms of depression.

On October 12, 2011 the Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) released the Guidelines for Comprehensive Mental Health Services for Older Adults in Canada. The Guidelines were developed with input from seniors, their families, service planners, and service providers from across the country, and  will support those individuals and groups working to ensure that the diverse mental health needs of Canadian seniors are met in the coming decades. The Guidelines  offer a range of options for addressing  seniors’ mental health needs, based on up-to-date evidence for what works—such as recommendations for how mental health outreach services can provide access to support and treatment for seniors where they live.

Mental health specialists generally agree on the following definition of major depression:

1. Symptoms persist for two weeks or longer
2. People either have depressed moods or seem unable to enjoy life.
3. Major depression should be considered if four of the following seven criteria are present:

*A change in sleeping habits (more or less than usual)
*A change in eating habits or weight
*Low energy or fatigue
*Trouble concentrating
*Feeling worthless or excessively guilty
*Marked restlessness or slowed-down movements
*Thoughts of death or suicide

Depression is NOT a character or personality flaw.

Many of the signs of depression may also indicate other problems or medical conditions – It is important to consult with a doctor to determine if your symptoms indicate depression or another medical condition.

Depression is often difficult to recognize among the senior population and it tends to be under diagnosed.  Living with depression not only prevents older adult from fully enjoying their lives but it puts a strain upon their health, which can lead to other medical concerns.  It is also very difficult for their caregivers and places a strain on their health as well.

Depression is a serious disorder that is treatable.  In addition, dealing with an individual who is suffering from depression or at risk of suicide can be absolutely overwhelming for a caregiver.  Although the caregiver is providing care and assistance to their loved ones they must also look after their own emotional, mental, and physical well-being. While all of us may feel sad from time to time, sadness is not depression and it is important to remember that depression is not a normal part of aging.

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