Wednesday, 18 February 2015 06:21

Depression and the role of the carer

Depression is most common in the elderly and yet is often undiagnosed. This is why it is the leading cause of suicide in the over 65-age category.  The decades old stigma of being depressed is still viewed as a form of weakness that keep seniors from speaking up about how they are feeling.  For the few who do get professional diagnoses it is often due to vigilance on the part of an elderly persons carer. 
The difficulty that carers often face when trying to get help to a depressed patient, is the unwillingness of the patient to seek help.  If a person is particularly resistant, it may help to avoid certain terminology that is associated with the disease.  Instead, try and focus on clearing up the symptoms, for example if a person has lost their appetite or is having trouble sleeping, you may want to talk about ways to resolve these issues rather than outwardly linking the condition to depression. 
It is not easy being the carer of someone dealing with depression.   If you are able to get through to a patient, and get a clear diagnosis, there will still be a long road ahead before a person will begin to feel more like themselves.  Medications can initially cause side-effects that actually worsen the symptoms and cause other physical symptoms.  During this time, a carer will have to watch very carefully as the risk of suicide may increase, or a patient may refuse to continue the medication due to the discomfort-causing side-effects.  The first month or two on anti-depressant medication requires enormous amounts of patience and encouragement, which can often feel like a thankless and insurmountable task when a person is unresponsive to your efforts. 
Do not be tempted to give up and allow a person with depression to dictate whether or not they take their medication, or stick to the lifestyle changes that they have been instructed to make.  You may be their only hope at any form of recovery and it will pay off tenfold for both you and your patient.  

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