In this month's "Mental Health Matters" newsletter published by Centra Mental Health Services, Dr. Peter Betz describes how the process of aging brings with it inherent misunderstandings that highlights processes of grief and loss that lead to a negative outlook on the aging process. Further stressors of aging are having to move away from the home one has lived in for much of their lives, admission to healthcare facilities, loneliness, financial hardship, illness and death of loved ones.
Grief and sadness as a response to such is perfectly normal. Persistent sadness to the extent it impairs the usual day-to-day life is not. Depression is a real concern among elders and it is not a normal part of the aging process! Here are three symptoms of depression to be on the lookout for:
1. Mood Change: this may be chronic sadness or melancholia, or irritability and lack of happiness.
2. Self-Attitude Change: the elder may begin to doubt their own personal value, with feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness. They may say that everyone would be "better off" if they "weren't around". If such attitude sets in, they may have feelings their ilfe has no further meaning, use or enjoyment.
3. Neurovegative Symptom Change: This complex phrase is used to denote the brain-body continuum. You may see changes in sleep patterns, eating patterns, energy levels and motivation to engage socially. The elder may become withdrawn or apathetic.
These changes are often gradual but can be the first sign of a developing clinical depression. If you or a family member sees these signs, you should talk to a healthcare professional. If you wish, you can start the conversation with our Elder Care Coordinator, Sandy Vernon. Sandy has many years experience in the mental health field in her work at Piedmont Community Services. She would be glad to meet with you privately and discuss a course of action to address these issues.