Separate Illness from Depression
Depression in seniors is more complicated to identify and treat than in younger folks because of all the other illnesses involved with older people. For example, Parkinson's disease directly affects brain chemistry and can exacerbate depressive symptoms. Estimates show that 25 percent of cancer patients are depressed, and as many as 50 percent of stroke patients suffer from depression.
Karen Swartz, M.D., Director of Clinical Programs at Johns Hopkins, maintains that patients with co-existing depression and chronic illnesses tend to focus more on the physical ailment, and therefore delay or impede full recovery from a mood disorder. Her advice? "Treat both the depression and the chronic illness simultaneously, setting aggressive treatment goals for both.... Do not settle for substandard treatment results--if one or both conditions is/are not responding to treatment, intensify or switch approaches." Also be sure there is cooperation and clear communication between your doctor and your mental health provider.