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Depression in the Elderly:

Why Is Mom So Sad?

Depression is the most common mental health problem in the elderly. They are at risk for two reasons: the dramatic life style changes and lowered self esteem that often come with retirement and physical problems, and the generalized body system slowing that gradually occurs in the aging process, which may change brain chemistry. It is important to recognize depression when it occurs, because it can be treated.

SIGNS OF DEPRESSION:

     *     Loss of interest or lack of pleasure in activities usually enjoyed

     *     Difficulty concentrating or remembering

     *     Physical discomforts that are hard to pin down

     *     Sleep disturbances

     *     Appetite changes

     *     Unusual irritablility

     *     Loss of self esteem or attitude of indifference

     *     Frequent crying spells

     *     Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

It can be difficult to tell the difference between depression and the early stages of Alzheimer's Disease, and more that half of the patients with Alzheimer's become depressed. Sometimes the side effects of medications can mimic depression. Your physician can help you sort this out.

Lack of physical activity is associated with many age-related medical condition. Feeling depressed is NOT a normal part of the aging process.If your physician approves, only twenty minutes of walking, using the stationary bike, or even swimming can dramatically improve health and lessen the odds of developing depression. Even if this level of activity is impossible, there are many simple "chair exercises" that help to improve circulation. It can be a vicious circle - if you think you are not well enough to exercise, soon you may not be. It's never too late to improve!