Depression in disguise


Meet Ray, a gentle 81-year-old man who has been a pillar of the community his entire life. He raised a loving family, worked hard, went to church, volunteered his time and never had a harsh word for anyone. Ray has not been feeling himself since his wife died three years ago. At first Ray seemed to accept what had happened but now friends and family say he doesnÕt answer the phone, never goes out and when visitors come heÕs short to the point of being unfriendly.

Last week he had a run in with a policeman over a minor traffic violation became agitated and drove away. His license was revoked for a while and now every time he sees an officer he obsesses and relives the incident, exclaiming ÒdonÕt they have anything better to do than to pick on the elderly?Ó

Other things seems to be going wrong as well. The power company is threatening to turn the lights off, heÕs behind in his other bills as well, his clothes are dirty and disheveled and his once immaculate apartment is a shambles. None of this seems to bother Ray and he tells his children to mind their own business.

Ray takes an anti-inflammatory medication to control his painful hip from a fracture several years earlier and resents that he is forced to see his doctor yearly for refills. RayÕs children are relieved when he does see the doctor. The doctor is relieved as well; heÕs tiring of all the calls from his family.

The family fears Ray may be suffering from AlzheimerÕs or some other kind of senile dementia. A battery of tests reveals nothing conclusive the diagnosis: depression. The family is relieved and shocked. The good news, Ray seems much more himself with treatment.

Millions of elderly Americans just like Ray suffer from this hidden form of depression that manifests as agitation, aggression and withdrawal. The cause can stem from the loss of a loved one but is more commonly caused from all the small things that when put together give this disturbing picture of altered physical and mental function.

Here are some ideas to help your elderly loved one stay health and balanced-

1. The need for touch never stops regardless of age. Touch deprivation can lead to suppressed immunity, loss of appetite, loss of interest in life and depression. Professional or amateur massage can help fill that void.

2. The need for food changes and lessens- too many times the elderly will settle for foods that are less than nourishing in favor of convenience. You canÕt always get them to change; therefore a high quality B vitamin is a must.  Vitamin B12 has actually been shown to sharpen mental function and reduce the risk of AlzheimerÕs.

3. Outside social contacts are vital. Something enjoyable whether itÕs bingo, church or volunteer work. Many community organizations that rely of volunteers are willing to provide transportation.

4. Uncorrected loss of sensory perception can make a person feel isolated and unnecessarily alone. Hearing tests and eyeglasses are a must.

5. Regular visits to the family doctor help avert physical problems.

6. Regular physical activity helps tone the body and keeps the mind sharp.

If you find your elderly loved oneÕs behavior has changed, they become easily agitated or in any way their behavior is less than appropriate they may be suffering from this disguised form of depression. A simple assessment by a physician may hold the answers and a better quality of life for their end years.

Till next time, Rebecca.