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Talk to target depression in seniors

Depression is not a normal part of aging.

That’s the message behind a presentation next Tuesday (April 24) from 1-2:30 p.m. at the Valley Adult Learning Association office located in the former high school off Second Street East.

It is being put on by the Rainycrest Family Council and Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA).

Depression is a clinical disorder that responds well to treatment, and some of the signs of depression are something people may take for granted as they get older, said Jolene Morrisseau, who will making the presentation along with Susan Ossachuk.

Both are geriatric workers with the CMHA’s Older Adults Program.

Morrisseau said too often seniors are depressed but not treated because people are misinterpreting what they feel as “the aging process” or other illnesses.

“Depression can be a bit trickier to identify in the older adult because they may have other health concerns, they may be experiencing some memory loss, or they may no longer be able to participate in certain activities,” she noted.

“That’s something we look for in depression, as well,” Morrisseau added. “They may not be able to participate in certain activities but it may be due to other reasons.

“It’s about looking for a number of signs that, given together, we notice a change in a person and rule out a number of common conditions, and then look at treating the depression itself.

“Many older adults themselves don’t necessarily identify that they feel bad, but they just feel empty,” she explained. “That’s something that can be depression but they don’t necessarily use the same language or identify it in the same way.

“They may not be cheerful, they may just not feel like doing anything.”

Fortunately, the majority of seniors living in the community are not experiencing any signs or symptoms of depression, Morrisseau said.

“Even though it’s a very common disorder, there’s so many more seniors that, despite having losses in their life or health concerns or things like that, are not experiencing any mental health problems,” she remarked.

In addition to speaking about the signs and symptoms of depression in seniors, Morrisseau and Ossachuk will talk about how to treat depression, with the main avenues being talk therapies (counselling), increasing social supports, and psychiatric medicine (medication).

Morrisseau said increasing social supports is all about finding ways to keep seniors “connected.”

For example, a senior may not be able to drive any longer, but it still is important to give them opportunities to go places, do the things they find enjoyable, and engage in relationships.

“Many times, the isolation and the withdrawal comes from not wanting to be a burden on friends or family, or not being able to see a solution themselves because they’ve always been independent and been able to get their own groceries or go to certain groups,” Morrisseau said.

“If they were involved in some of the church groups, maybe they were always the one serving and making sandwiches.

“Physically, they may not be able to do that, so it’s about finding other ways for them to have social supports and outlets,” she added. “Getting them involved in different groups that may fill that void.

“Things that they can participate in and enjoy.”

Morrisseau said next Tuesday’s presentation is aimed at seniors, as well as their friends and families, noting she expects a large portion of attendees to be people who have a loved one in Rainycrest and want to know more about depression and the things to look for to best help their loved one.

As such, Morrisseau and Ossachuk also will talk a little about how friends and family can support a senior with depression.

“That’s a key component,” she stressed. “Even if you’re not the person who is depressed, how can you support someone in learning some of those skills, as well, so you’re not taking away all of their independence?

“There is some specific things that are often helpful for friends and family to know.”

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