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Depression Takes Heavy Toll on the Elderly

Depression is a serious, potentially fatal medical illness. While it is widespread, it is not a normal part of the aging process. There are strong connections between depression and other illnesses that affect the elderly, such as Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson's Disease, coronary artery disease, and diabetes. Whether it occurs after a heart attack or a stroke, and it is common after both, depression amplifies disability and hastens an early death.

Depression can make other illnesses harder to treat, and recovery is often more prolonged and difficult. Treating these illnesses without also treating an accompanying depression misses an important, sometimes life saving, clinical step. Untreated depression kills no less surely than a heart attack or stoke. Only a small percentage of the elderly are treated for their depression.

Statistics reinforce just how prevalent depression is among older people. According to the Nation Institute of Mental Health, approximately 2 million Americans over the age of 65, have a diagnosable depressive illness. Research shows that the rate of suicide among the elderly, especially men, is double that of the general population. The elderly and those who care for and about them should watch for the signs of depression, educate themselves about the illness and discuss signs and symptoms with the patient's primary care physician.

Symptoms of depression include: prolonged sadness or unexplained crying spells, significant changes in appetite or sleep patterns, feelings of irritability, anger, worry, agitation, anxiety, pessimism or indifference, loss of energy, persistent tiredness, feelings of guilt or worthlessness, inability to concentrate and indecisiveness, inability to take pleasure in former interests, social withdrawal, unexplained aches and pains, and recurring thoughts of death or suicide.

With proper diagnosis and treatment, quality of life can significantly improve. In addition to medical treatment and talk therapy, there are lifestyle changes that can lead to more productive lives. You can find more information about depression and other mental illnesses at our website:

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Mental Health America Jackson County
P.O. Box 51
Seymour, IN 47274
Phone: (812) 522-3480
Fax: (812) 524-8176