Washington, Feb 13 : Depression, which has been looked upon as being a part of the process of aging, can be treated effectively in the elderly according to a report.
The report, which came out in the February 2008 issue of the Harvard Mental Health Letter, stated that it is very difficult not to mistake the depressive symptoms for some other medical disorder and that it should not be treated as a normal ailment in the elderly.
According to the report, if the condition is left untreated it can increase the likelihood of disability, placement in a nursing home, and death.
It was found that suicide risk also increased with age, with most cases being white men in the United States who are over the age of 85.
The symptoms of depression may vary in the elderly people. Some of them may have classic symptoms such as persistent sadness and despair while others may have typical symptoms such as heart palpitations, fatigue, tremors, or vomiting. Some may even report cognitive problems such as an inability to concentrate or remember things.
The one thing that is still not clear however is why symptoms of depression in the elderly, differs from those in younger adults. But it is believed that coexisting medical problems, medication side effects, and the natural aging process may all contribute to the condition.
Editor in chief of the Harvard Mental Health Letter, Dr. Michael Miller, has emphasized that it is important for doctors who suspect depression in an elderly patient, to assess the person's physical health problems and medications in order to determine whether these might be contributing to depressive symptoms.
In some cases, treating an existing medical problem can lessen the depression, but in others, antidepressant medications (starting at half the dose used in younger adults), psychotherapy, or both will be required.
It may not be an easy task to decide on the best treatment a particular individual needs, but it would most definitely give the patient a better quality of life.