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elderly depression | terezia farkas | depression help | Beliefnet

 

Elderly depression often goes untreated or is misdiagnosed. Yet, people over age 60 are more likely to be depressed than younger people. This is important. As the population of the United States gets older and more depressed, proper mental health care becomes more urgent.

Health problems create and mask depression symptoms.

The older you become, the more health problems you develop. Rheumatism, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease are some of the health problems that could face a person as the years go by. The pain and anxiety from any of these conditions can lead to depression. Most diseases have a pain management program. It’s important to stick with such a routine, because properly managing pain helps keep despair at bay. Managing pain also makes it easier to spot depression symptoms.

A disease can mask depression. If a person is sad or anxious, its assumed those feelings are there because of the disease. Any depression is missed. If there is more than one problem with health, depression gets caught up and lost in the mess. For example, a person suffers from heart disease and starts developing dementia. The person is sad, eats less, and has sleep problems. Are those conditions caused by the diseases? Or are they caused by medications, the realization that he/she is starting to forget things, or depression? In such a case, what’s needed is a mental health check.

Medications can create depression.

Depression is the most common side effect of medications. What happens is that some medications block receptors in the brain that help keep mood balanced. Some medications also interfere with natural chemical processes in your body, thus creating feelings of anxiety and despair. If you notice symptoms of sadness, increased anxiety or agitation, aggressive behaviour, or mood swings, you should immediately visit a doctor.

Drugs can interact with each other in negative ways. Paranoia is a common side effect. It’s important to keep a list of all medications being taken. Young adults taking care of older parents should check with the pharmacist to make sure the drug list is really what’s being taken.

Get a geriatric doctor.

Geriatric doctors are specially trained doctors who deal with aging. The human body naturally changes as it gets older. But there are some things, like depression, that aren’t part of the normal aging process. A geriatric doctor is the best doctor to go to when you’re not sure if an elderly parent or relative is suffering from depression or some other mental health problem.

A geriatric doctor is trained to deal with dementia and Alzheimer’s. Dementia and Alzheimer’s both create depression, but they also start off with a general sadness and dismay over what is a loss of personal power. A geriatric doctor has many diagnostic tools, like the Geriatric Depression Scale, to identify depression versus sadness. Unfortunately finding a geriatric doctor who accepts new patients can be a long process. There’s few of these specialized doctors at a time when most of the US population is hitting old age.

Family and friends are important.

It’s important to watch for depression in elderly parents and relatives. Often these elderly people have physical problems which create chronic pain and anxiety. Sadness and anxiety are dismissed as by-products, instead of being seen as parts of depression. Geriatric doctors are the best type of doctors to accurately diagnosis depression from disease. Love and family support can help elderly people suffering from depression.

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Alzheimer's disease| Terezia Farkas | Beliefnet | dementia

Alzheimer’s and dementia are not part of normal aging. How can you tell if someone has Alzheimer’s or dementia? What are the early signs of Alzheimer’s, and how is it different from normal aging?

My grandmother had Alzheimer’s

When my grandmother started loosing her memory, the family first thought it was related to old age. After all, grandmother was in her late seventies. Our view shifted to dementia as her symptoms suddenly changed. She started having memory loss and her decision-making was off. She had trouble focusing on everyday tasks. She’d repeat things. But none of it was so bad that grandmother couldn’t function.

Then the dementia worsened. It became Alzheimer’s. Grandmother’s mood and behaviour suddenly changed. Grandmother would pack apples away into the attic. She’d put her purse in the freezer so it would be safe from robbers. Grandmother got angry more often. She’d insist her neighbour was trying to seduce grandfather ( which was never remotely true). Grandmother started withdrawing socially from friends, and isolated herself at home. She was irritable, anxious, and aggressive. Grandmother would get angry and hurl objects. She lost track of time and what day it was.

Dementia is a symptom, not a disease

Dementia is an umbrella term for what happens when brain cells die. It’s not part of normal aging, nor is there any underlying cause for it, such as disease. As you get older, brain cells responsible for mental abilities like memory and reasoning start to slow down and die. This causes memory loss, difficulty in thinking and problem solving, and issues with social activity.

Dementia happens slowly. Most people don’t know they have dementia. Other people notice the dementia because of how the person acts. As dementia progresses, it may become Alzheimer’s. Dementia can also result from a head injury, a stroke, or a tumour.

Dementia creates agitation, anger, and confusion which get worse in the late afternoon or evening. Dementia symptoms get worse over time. In the last stages of dementia, a person can’t communicate properly. So a caregiver has to look for signs of pain like moaning, yelling, grimacing, inability to sleep, or sweating.

Why is Alzheimer’s confused with dementia?

Because Alzheimer’s is part of dementia, the symptoms are similar. People often confuse the two. I’ve been told by doctors that the only way to confirm a person has Alzheimer’s is by doing a brain tissue biopsy. Otherwise, doctors rely on mental health diagnostic tools.

Alzheimer’s gets worse over time. Although there are treatments that slow down Alzheimer’s, there is no cure. Alzheimer’s progressively affects the body. In the early stages, memory loss is mild. In later stages of the disease, the body starts shutting down. Swallowing becomes difficult and then stops. The person has to be tube fed. The body starts to shrivel and there is no more communication.

My grandmother

Grandmother suffered a great deal with Alzheimer’s. But she fought to stay alive right up until the end. As grandmother progressed through the seven stages of Alzheimer’s, she lost the ability to walk, feed herself, or speak. Her eyes vacantly followed you. Her fingers became gnarled bones. Her body shrivelled up and she looked like a skeleton. In the final stage, grandmother lost her ability to swallow and had a tube down her throat. Alzheimer’s patients usually die from heart attack or kidney failure. Grandmother died from a heart attack.

A person developing dementia usually won’t notice it. Other people, like family members, are the ones who see the changes in behaviour and mood. It’s important that once dementia is suspected, family takes the person in for a medical checkup. The earlier dementia is diagnosed, the better the chances for the person to understand what’s going on.

For more information or for help, contact the Alzheimer’s Association at 1-800-272-3900.

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relationship | clinic | Terezia Farkas | Beliefnet | transformation

Accompanying family to a clinic has many benefits. Having someone familiar and used to your behaviour and moods creates a safe space to release emotions. Usually there’s some amount of anxiety when going to a clinic or hospital. Family can support you emotionally during the trip, especially if you have a long wait time or a physically demanding treatment. A family member can also keep track of important health information. Even with good news, too much information can be tough to remember. Plus, the time spent going to and being in the clinic provides good family bonding time.

When my mother was undergoing chemotherapy, my brother and I used to go with her to the cancer clinic. Mom’s diagnosis had been breast cancer. She had needed a radical mastectomy, and then, chemotherapy. Recovering from such a traumatic surgery, with blows to self-esteem and her marriage, was a tough time for Mom. Going with Mom to the clinic visits gave us time to reconnect, encourage each other, and hope for positive outcomes.

Why family is best

Most clinics don’t let a friend go in with the patient to visit the doctor. But a family member going in with a patient is different. A family member can provide safe mental and emotional support space. A family member can also help the doctor by providing important information about the patient’s recent behaviour and mood that a friend may not know or see. When medical news isn’t good, its hard to remember everything the doctor is telling you. Things get blocked out. Family can remember important medical information or help set up future appointments.

Things aren’t as scary when you’re not alone at a medical appointment. There’s lots of strangers, hallway mazes, and nasty odours at a clinic. Then there’s the internal fear. Going with her kids gave my Mom a release valve for her anxieties. After all, she knew us and we knew her. Cancer didn’t change the person Mom was. So we’d talk about her fears and ours. We’d try to be non-judgemental, and shared only what we knew Mom could emotionally handle. But it was good being at the clinic with her. We knew we made a difference in her day whenever we went with her.

Having family with you during clinic visits can make a stressful visit more enjoyable. My brother would joke and tell stories that made Mom laugh. I used to buy ice cream or a cup of coffee after clinic appointments. We’d get her cookies or something to drink while she was having chemotherapy. Little things like these made the day feel better for Mom.

There are many benefits to accompanying family to a clinic. If you can’t make it, have another family member take your place. Or, have rotational shifts where you go one time and another family member goes the other time. Get the younger generation involved. Grandkids with some spare time can help. Even in-laws may want to chip in. The idea is to make the person who needs to go to the clinic feel good about going and being there.

Visit me on Twitter @tereziafarkas

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10 things about depression | Terezia Farkas | Beliefnet | depression help

TEN THINGS ABOUT DEPRESSION:

1. Depression is not the same as being sad.

Sadness is a temporary emotional state. Sadness is emotional pain triggered by a painful, difficult, challenging, or disappointing experience. You feel sad about something. Sadness is a healthy release of despair. Crying brings your serotonin, dopamine, and glutamate levels back to normal. You can pull yourself out of sadness. You will move past sadness and experience joy again.

Depression is a permanent illness that affects the brain, body, emotions, and spirituality. Depression affects every part of your life. You can get out of sadness without needing medications. But in depression, you need medications to stabilize you. You will have to be on anti-depressants for years, perhaps all your life. Depression literally changes your brain structure. Depression affects memory and attention. It affects how you interact with others, time management, and energy. You don’t enjoy things you used to enjoy. This is called anhedonia. You self harm. You lose hope.

2. Depression symptoms are different in men and women.

Women and men react differently to depression. Women tend to blame themselves, while a man will blame others. Because a woman blames herself, she’ll feel worthless, guilty, and anxious. A man, meantime, will feel suspicious and be guarded against revealing his feelings to others.

Men tend to be more angry than women. Women avoid conflicts when depressed. Women talk more easily about their feelings, whereas men hide their feelings. A depressed man finds it difficult to talk about his feelings. Instead, he will focus on physical symptoms that accompany depression. A man will mention aches, bruises, back pain, headaches and other physical problems as a cry for help. When men feel hopeless, helpless, or overwhelmed by despair, they tend to cover it up by drinking too much, behaving recklessly, or exploding with anger. A man needs to feel in control at all costs. To do otherwise is to be weak. So a man won’t admit to being depressed. 

3. Being depressed doesn’t mean you’re weak, broken, or lazy.

Depression is a health problem. It’s not you being lazy, weak, or broken. Depression can affect anyone. It needs to be taken seriously, and treated with medications and therapy. Depression is not a punishment from God, nor is it punishment for being you. Depression is about negative thoughts taking over your mind and soul. Negative thoughts are powerful, and it takes time to turn them around.

Depression sucks the energy out of a person. It makes you tired beyond anything you could imagine. Your lack of energy affects work and social life. Meltdowns, crying on the job, or being a zombie doesn’t mean your weak or broken. You’re fighting the pain but it overwhelms all senses. Depression has real physical symptoms. Depression can cause sleep disorders, stroke, heart disease, and obesity. Being depressed doesn’t mean you’re weak spiritually or emotionally. You might have experienced trauma, grief, or been the victim of your own genetic heritage. 

4. You are the same person you were before you were depressed.

Depression doesn’t change your soul, or how much you love others. It changes your interaction with the world and how you think about yourself. You’re using your energy to heal yourself and find a way out of the darkness.

Many people think that a depressed person is different, which is true in one way. People pick up on the changes in behaviour and attitude. The depressed person doesn’t smile as much, talk about things that interest him/her, doesn’t go out with friends. People notice change, but they don’t know what to do. So people hesitate, maybe even become a little bit afraid of approaching the depressed person. Especially if there are angry outbursts, or fits of crying. People don’t know what to do when the depressed person emotionally pushes them away. So they believe that the depressed person isn’t the same one they used to love.

5. There are many levels of depression.

There are similar experiences shared by depressed people. But the depth and perception of pain makes each experience unique. Depression ranges from mild to severe. Suicide is the step beyond severe depression, and is a person’s ultimate final choice.

Major depression is the most severe depression type a person can experience. The darkness consumes everything. A person loses interest in all activities. There’s serious weight loss or gain, lack of energy, brain fog, and thoughts of suicide. Major depression is so heavy on the soul and mind, that suicide is often seen as the only way out from the pain and despair. Medications, ECT, rTMS, and therapy are necessary. At the mild end of depression is persistent depressive disorder or dysthymia. It’s low mood, and while symptoms are the same as for major depression, it’s very different in the severity of hopelessness and despair. Medication or therapy will help.

6. Depression has many causes.

The problem with depression is that so many things cause depression. Sometimes the reason for being depressed isn’t clear, or it’s a combination of things. Often even the depressed person doesn’t know what’s the reason behind the depression. 

Trauma and PTSD can create depression. Disease certainly causes depression. Old age brings with it big changes to lifestyle that leaves one depressed – like leaving your home for a nursing home. Grief can lead to depression. Genetics plays a role in whether you are prone to develop depression. SAD (seasonal affective disorder) also creates depression. Even technology and social media can increase depression.

Food and diet are also culprits in depression. Trans fats are artificially created fats that shrink your brain. This creates depression. Refined sugar changes your body’s glucose levels and swells your brain. High blood sugar affects mood by creating anxiety, weakening your ability to deal with stress, and increasing risk for depression.

7. It’s okay to talk about your pain.

Depressed people want to talk about their feelings. They have negative thoughts whirling inside their brains. None of the negative self talk makes sense, even though it can be convincing. So a depressed person needs to talk. The inner turmoil won’t be resolved, but it’s a good release valve.

Talking about depression doesn’t make a depressed person suicidal. That’s important to know. In fact, talking about depression can stop a person from choosing suicide, because it gives the person a chance to pause, rethink, and move back from the edge. Depression talk breaks the stigma of depression. It brings negative self-talk into the open, where the negativity can be looked at neutrally. Non-judgemental dialogue and actions are the best. You don’t have to hide despair or pain. Talking about your pain means admitting you are suffering, which is the first step towards healing.

8. Hugs are welcome.

A hug speaks volumes even if you don’t say a word. A hug says, “You’re not alone.” Hugs are a physical connection to the world. It feels good to be hugged. A hug brings comfort, reassurance, and love. A hug helps with the healing process of grief, trauma, or PTSD. A hug is simple and easy to do. A hug doesn’t cost anything, but is priceless to receive. 

A hug releases feel good chemicals in the brain. Oxytocin is often called the “love hormone” because it’s responsible for how you feel when you bond with a loved one. Hugging a depressed person raises low oxytocin levels back to normal. The depressed person literally starts feeling good from a hug. Hugging a person creates a connection and a source of support during grief or depression. Hugs create feelings of trust, acceptance, love and support between people. Hugs are awesome!

9. “Tell me you love me.”

A depressed person wants love as much as anybody else. The person needs to know he/she is loved.  That he/she is okay as a person. And that he/she still means something to you.

Love is unconditional. It’s hard for humans to love unconditionally. But, if you truly love someone, you’re not trying to change the person. Telling a depressed person, “I love you,” provides reassurance that you’re not trying to change him/her. You’re not judging or disrespecting the person. Love in a relationship means loving one another with trust, acceptance, and support. A depressed person wants to hear the words, “I love you” as much as feel the love. Remember, depression has a lot of negative self-talk. By saying how you feel, you are letting those positive words sink into the mind and heart of your loved one. You are reinforcing positivity.

10. If you notice signs of suicide, talk to the person.

People who attempt suicide leave warning signs. Even up to the last moment, a suicidal person wishes someone would step in and give a reason to live. Talking about suicide won’t make a person suicidal. Don’t promise to keep it a secret. Make sure you let some medical practitioner know. If you’re a kid, tell an adult you trust.

It’s difficult to understand why a person would choose suicide. Even when a suicide note is left behind, people have unanswered questions. That’s why it’s important to talk about depression with the person. Suicide can be an idea rattling around in the person’s head. Asking about suicidal thoughts actually decreases the risk of the person attempting suicide. If there’s already been an attempt, don’t ignore or try to cover it up. Talk to the person about suicide. Its been proven that people who attempt suicide will try it again.

Let’s recap the ten things about depression. Depression is not the same as sadness. Depression symptoms are different in men and women. You’re not weak, lazy, or broken if you’re depressed. You are still you when depressed. There are many levels of depression. Depression has many causes. It’s okay to talk about your pain when depressed. Hugs are welcome. “Tell me you love me” is very important. If you notice signs of suicide, talk to the person.

Visit me on Twitter  @tereziafarkas or visit my website http://www.tereziafarkas.com
Heart of Love Evolution - Surviving Depression | Terezia Farkas | depression help

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