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Depression In The Elderly Goes Hand In Hand With Disease

[12 Oct 2012 | No Comments | | Author: ]
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The elderly individual who faces a future full of pain, immobility or decreased function is very likely to become depressed as he/she contemplates the future. Chronic diseases can lead to desperation, sadness or feelings of hopelessness that can lead to depression.

As we grow older and face these issues we are likely to be doing so with less support due to loss of family members and friends to death or lifechanges that separate us from those we care most about. Depression is a common bedfellow to the diagnosis of a life-threatening disease such as cancer.

Depression Facts Regarding The Elderly:

The diagnosis of depression may sometimes be missed as caregivers concentrate on the “bigger issues” facing the individual or they may dismiss certain signs as being inevitable part of the aging process.

Depression in the elderly is also at a higher risk for suicide. Studies show that suicide rates for individuals age 80 to 84 are more than double that of the rest of the population.

Typically, depression lasts longer in the elderly patient. It has also been shown to increase the risk of dealth as individuals with depression tend to give up on life. Those suffering from heart attack are at an increased risk for death if they are elderly and depressed.

The National Institute of Mental Health has declared that depression in individuals 65 or older is a major public health problem.

Long-term illness in elderly can trigger clinical depression. Illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, cancer, heart disease, chronic lung disease, and also Parkinson’s disease.
Only 10% of the 6 million Americans suffering from depression aged 65 or older receive treatment for their depression.

Depressed elderly individuals are more likely to commit suicide than younger individuals with depression. 19% of all suicides are elderly individuals.

Individuals who are elderly and have major symptoms of depression have 50% higher medical bills than non-depressed elderly individuals.

What Makes The Elderly At Risk For Depression During Illness?

Although depression can hit after a serious or long-term illness sets in; it can also cause illness if it occurs first. Those who are depressed often do not take care of themselves which can contribute to disease.

Risk factors for depression besides age are: certain medications that can cause depression, being isolated such as those who live alone, experiencing a recent death of someone close to or of the same age, the presence of a chronic disease or having pain from disease or an injury that is constant or severe, physical damage to the body such as a loss of a limb or heart attack, fear of dying, family history or a previous history of depression, substance abuse (drug or alcohol). These risk factors should be kept in mind when dealing with an elderly person who is ill.

Obviously someone who is ill is more likely to be put on medication and certain medications can lead to depression in the elderly. Medical professionals who are prescribing medications for the elderly need to be aware of the medications that can cause depression; once aware of the risk they can look for alternative choices to prescribe so that the risk for depression can be lessened.


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