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Depression is a mental disorder that is common in people of all ages, but is usually quite prevalent among senior citizens. According to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, late life depression symptoms include excessive worrying, deep feelings of sadness, loss of energy, insomnia, crying and difficulty concentrating. Depression in the final stages of life is usually brought about by changes in routine such as a move to a new living space, the death of a loved one or a medical battle; sometimes even the combination of changes can cause severe depression in older adults.
Although depression is common in seniors, medical professionals from Emory University state that between 80-90 percent of patients who seek medical attention early on are successfully treated using a variety of techniques, such as medication, therapy and alternative treatments.
Medication such as anti-depressants is commonly used to treat depression; medications exist to regulate the serotonin levels in the brain, which helps stabilize the patient’s mood. Though usually effective at relieving depressive symptoms, medication is not always the answer, as it may negatively affect a senior, especially if he or she is taking a prescription for an underlying condition.
If prescribed medication, patients must allow significant time to pass before feeling the effects of the drug. Doctors can prescribe antidepressants that are easier for seniors to tolerate, allowing the side effects, nausea, sleepiness, diarrhea, weight gain, tend to dissipate over time. When introducing a new medication, it is always important for patients to share what other medications they are currently taking, to reduce the chance of any complications due to drug interaction.
Another viable, less invasive, form of treatment is psychotherapy. Psychologists use psychotherapy to converse with patients and determine underlying mental or emotional problems that may contribute to their depression. Sessions of psychotherapy usually last about an hour and can be highly beneficial. Larry Thompson, Ph.D., of Stanford Medical, suggests that therapy for late life depression patients last between 10 to 20 sessions, but that the final decision on number of sessions should be determined by the patient and medical professional.
Another, somewhat alternative treatment for late life depression is electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). Although it sounds frightening, ECT is a safe and effective way of treating life-threatening late life depression when antidepressants are not successful. ECT uses impulses sent directly into the brain to cause a therapeutic effect and usually lasts between 6 to 12 sessions.
Seniors who experience depression are at greater risk for suicidal behavior, as they often feel that there is nothing left to live for at an advanced age. Treatment is available in a variety of effective measures and is necessary to provide a higher quality of life to elderly patients. This post is brought to you by Argosy University. Drawing upon our more than 30-year history of granting degrees in professional psychology, Argosy University has developed a curriculum that focuses on interpersonal skills and practical experience alongside academic learning. Because getting a degree is one thing. Succeeding, quite another.
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