Meeting the Needs of Seniors with Depression

Depression impacts virtually every social demographic, and seniors are certainly no exception. For most people, mood is a strong indicator of depression, and treatment starts with therapy or counseling before adding medication and other supplemental approaches. However, the way seniors exhibit signs of depression and respond to treatment tends to differ from what we see in younger people. The conventional approaches to recognizing and treating depression aren’t as effective among older populations. To really meet the mental health needs of seniors, the way we approach depression must change to match the way they experience it.

First: identifying depression. Typical depression screenings circle around the person’s mood. Patients self-identify the feelings they experience, and these are used to determine whether they ought to find a therapist. But research suggests that mood-based screenings often miss depression in seniors. Researchers at the University of Missouri have developed non-traditional depression screening specifically for seniors. It looks for verbal aggression, weight loss, increased pain, urinary incontinence, decline in ability to perform daily activities, and changes in care needs. These are manifestations that often arise alongside depression in seniors, and are easier to detect than mood-based criteria in traditional depression screenings, which means that more depressed seniors will get the help they need.

Second: treating depression. Just as in the general population, therapy and counseling are the best place to start. But depression is very often a whole-person issue, not just a mental health issue, and this is especially true of seniors. Decreases in mobility, social interaction, stamina, and even things like eyesight can weigh heavily on a person’s emotions. Valentin Bragin, M.D., PhD has written a new book, Conquering Depression in the Golden Years, which addresses just that. “To win the fight against depression, both the brain and the body should be in sync, fully mobilized,” writes Bragin, who sees mental health and physical health as a two way relationship, especially among seniors. Treating the whole self by incorporating physical exercise, memory training, and diet recommendations along with psychotherapy and group counseling is one way to address depression not on its own terms, but in the real life contexts of seniors affected by it.

© Copyright 2010 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Colin

    Colin

    November 12th, 2010 at 10:40 AM

    There are far too many things that can lead to depression in seniors.These include loneliness,too much of free time and also possible loss of their better half.And they are more prone to things like things in general.

  • Lester e. a. Wilson

    Lester e. a. Wilson

    November 13th, 2010 at 3:36 PM

    I admire all the research that is being done to alleviate the problem of depression.

    However depression is not the sickness but merely a symptom of the underlying problem.

    Depression is a spirit, and until this is understood,doctors and psychiatrists will continue to subscribe ant-depressant drugs that only suppress the symptoms temporarily.

    Not the problem,you may think this is fiction,but through the word of God in the Bible people who were given up as hopeless cases have been restored to everyday life “without drugs”and are in their right minds…

    I pray that someone will receive the revelation that the contents of the Bible contains the power of God to heal and restore…

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