Rita Hodges

Extension service

Life is full of changes. But, as a person ages, those changes may come more frequently and can be harder to face.

And, that could lead to depression.

There is no one cause for depression; however, a sense of loss may be the greatest cause. Loss is common in the older adult population: loss of family and friends, loss of income, loss of independence. But this sense of loss isn’t the only cause of depression.

Depression can also be caused by chemical imbalances in the brain. Some cases of depression seem to have no explanation.

Depression isn’t uncommon either, especially among older people.

Experts estimate that about 25 percent of adults over age 65 have one or more symptoms of depression. Some of these symptoms:

•feelings of emptiness or continuing sadness;

•lack of energy;

•loss of pleasure in daily routine;

•social isolation;

•changes in sleeping patterns;

•change in appetite;

•uncontrollable crying;

•difficulty in focusing or making decisions; and

•thoughts of death or suicide.

Even though these symptoms are common, keep in mind that different people express depression in different ways. Depression may even be able to hide behind a smiling face.

Whatever the cause and whatever the symptoms, the thing to remember about depression is that it is mostly treatable with therapy, medications or both.

The first step is admitting there is a problem. Only then will you or your loved one be able to seek the treatment needed.

Treatments may include support group therapy – which may be available at low or no cost from local senior organizations – or one-on-one counseling.

Your health provider or your therapist may recommend that you begin taking some sort of medication for depression. These medications may help improve your mood, sleep, appetite and concentration.

Medicare or personal health insurance may help cover the cost of these treatments.

To help stop depression before it begins, some suggestions are:

•Preparing for anticipated major life-changing events such as retirement or moving to a new home.

•Maintaining established friendships while making new ones. Interaction with others is one of the most effective ways to keep depression from affecting your life.

•Maintaining old hobbies and developing new ones. These ongoing and growing interests help keep the mind sharp.

•Keeping physically fit and eating a balanced diet.

The best recommendation is to stay active: physically, mentally and socially. Remember not to stretch yourself too thin in the process. You will know when you have taken on too much.

For more information, contact Rita M. Hodges, county extension agent for family and consumer sciences, 701 S. Interstate 35E, Suite 3, Waxahachie; call 972-825-5175; or e-mail rmhodges@ag.tamu.edu.