I hate the world elderly. Older is okay but elderly is something that, even after years or working with older people in the health care environment, sounds so frail and well, hopeless. Older people suffer an inordinate amount of loss and it is not at all surprising that depression runs rampant in this age group.
Still, working at an assisted living facility, I am appalled by the number of people taking medications for depression. The fault lays both in the hands of the nursing staff and with the families because none of them can stand watching someone who is clearly depressed.
Is long-term medication management the answer? What about therapy? Granted, the folks from our parent’s generation were adverse to the idea of mental health therapy because it was a sign or weakness, and what if everyone thought they were “crazy.”
This is a sad situation because one of the causes of depression in the elderly is the loneliness associated with social isolation. Whether living alone or in a care facility people tend to isolate. Having someone to talk to for problem solving as well as for company is a good idea.
Antidepressants have many side effects and many of the side effects are the same as the symptoms that you are being treated for. Hmmm…that makes for an interesting conundrum doesn’t it? Is mom dizzy or sleeping all of the time because she is depressed or because the drugs are making her that way?
Studies show that talk therapy works as well as drug therapy in many older folks, once the fear of “craziness” is dealt with. Researchers felt that therapy worked as well for seniors as it did for younger adults in that the same number showed improvement, no improvement or some improvement as in clinical drug trials.
As moods improved the ability to function improves, as well as the ability to share and to problem solve. Therapists agree (whether they favor drug therapy, talk therapy, or a combination of both) that simple case management and helping people connect with community services can help people turn the corner.
Whether therapy comes in form of a support group, peer-counseling through social services, or a therapy interaction, it is goes along way toward decreasing social isolation. Group Therapy is becoming very popular now that people are pinching pennies a bit more and this is probably a good thing. Groups create a realistic environment and are effective therapy tools. Groups work especially well for those experiencing the social isolation that accompanies depression and anxiety. In a group, people learn to help each other. It is time to disavow ourselves of the notion that seeking help in form of therapy means you are crazy.