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Managing Depression, Anxiety and Insomnia in Old Age

Dr. Beena Thomas

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Once you recognise symptoms of depression and these persist continually for more than two weeks, you should consider talking to your doctor for an assessment. A physician might temporarily prescribe an antidepressant medication to enhance your ability to function. Antidepressants are generally non-habit forming and often prove to be very helpful. A mental health professional will help you to pinpoint life stresses, identify problematic patterns and help you work out a healthier approach to dealing with them.

As always, surrounding yourself with supportive family, friends, instills hope and fights the tendency towards isolation that is prevalent with depression.

What should the Doctor do if Depression is a Concern?
In order to identify potential correctable causes, the doctor should take a history and perform a physical examination looking for medical conditions that might result in depression. Also, it is important that all medications taken by a patient, including over-the-counter medications or herbal remedies, be brought to the exam for the doctor to review. In some cases, the doctor may want to refer persons to a mental health specialist.

Treatment Options Available for Depression
The good news about depression is that treatment works! Counseling and medications are the primary methods of treatment. Counseling is used to counter negative thinking, solve problems and deal with interpersonal conflicts. Medications for depression help most people who take adequate doses over a long period of time-generally; it takes several weeks for treatment to become effective. Homoeopathy offers a wide range of medicines for the treatment of depression.

How can Depression be Treated?
Most cases of depression can be easily treated by these three methods:

Support from Family and Friends: Since depression is most often a psychological problem precipitated by worries or problems in the family and one's personal life, what is needed is understanding and support from friends and family.

Psychotherapy: When the problem is not settled by just family support, then professional psychotherapy is advisable.

Antidepressant drugs: These are very effective. Studies indicate that drug therapy alone relieves symptoms up to 80% of the time. The homoeopathic medications are not addictive and have no side effects.

What can Family Members do if they Suspect an Older Relative is Depressed?
Do not ignore warning signs of depression. Listen carefully if an older person complains about feeling depressed or says people don't care. Treatment can be more successful if family members participate in care. Because caring for a depressed older person can be stressful, caregivers should pay careful attention to the need for taking a break from care giving tasks.

At least six of the following symptoms will be present when anxious:
Motor tension
  • Trembling, twitching or feeling shaky
  • Muscle tension, aches or soreness
  • Restlessness
  • Easy fatigue
Autonomic hyperactivity
  • Shortness of breath or smothering sensations
  • Palpitations, accelerated heart rate
  • Sweating or cold clammy hands
  • Dry mouth
  • Dizziness or light headedness
  • Nausea, diarrhoea or other abdominal distress
  • Flushes or hot flashes or chills
  • Frequent urination
  • Trouble swallowing or lump in throat

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