Lisa Conway – Hometown News
Q: Why am I depressed at the holidays?
A: It is estimated that 20% of people age 55 or older experience some type of mental health concern. Depression is a type of mood disorder associated with distress and suffering. It is the most prevalent mental health concern among older adults. Although the rate of adults with depression tends to increase with age, it is not a normal part of growing older.
Mental Health and the Holidays
Depression may occur at any time of the year, but the stress and anxiety during the months of November and December can make the holidays particularly difficult and lonely. The emphasis on gift giving, shopping, cooking, parties and travel can be overwhelming. We may feel pressure to maintain beloved traditions, even as we are acutely aware of loss and change.
Risk factors for senior depression
Loss of control or independence, physical illness, widowhood and loss of friends, impaired functional status, isolation and lack of a supportive social network can all put seniors at risk of depression. Even the changes that come with retirement can adversely affect the mental health of some individuals.
Depression is more than just a passing mood. A depressed individual may experience persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness, and lose interest in activities they once enjoyed. Aside from the outward emotional signs, people may exhibit physical symptoms such as chronic pain or digestive issues.
Overcoming the stigma
The stigma attached to mental illness is stronger in the older population. Therefore, seniors may express their depressive symptoms in terms of physical complaints rather than traditional symptoms. This can delay the appropriate treatment, as doctors search for answers to a physical malady. If you (or someone you care about) are experiencing physical symptoms with no forthcoming explanations, consider asking your physician for a depression screening for further evaluation.
Need resources for seniors? Call One Senior Place in Viera at 321-751-6771 or in Altamonte Springs at 407-949-6733.
One Senior Place is a marketplace for resources and provider of information, advice, care and on-site services for seniors and their families. Questions for this column are answered by professionals in nursing, social work, care management and in-home care. Send questions to askOSP@OneSeniorPlace.com or visit One Senior Place, The Experts in Aging at OneSeniorPlace.com. Lisa Conway is a Registered Nurse and a Certified Care Manager for Senior Partner Care Services, Viera.