Mental well-being vital to physical health & longevity
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
"It's a relationship building
opportunity and wonderful for
everyone," Hirasawa explains.
"Our seniors tell us that many
times they miss their own grandchildren
who may live in another
state or that their children are
grown and they don't have the
opportunity for youthful interactions.
For those with fading
verbal skills lost to dementia, the
unwavering love and acceptance
of a child can mean the world."
|Advocate Lutheran General's Adult Day Care client Olga Warsey of Lisle and Megan Kenny from the
Children's Day Care program interact with books and toys during a unique intergenerational program.
In addition to adult day care
options, seniors and their caregivers
say continuing education classes,
social clubs and organizations,
docent and volunteer work or
even adopting a pet may provide
stimulating activities and brain
challenges. Their recommendations
may be on track, according
to the National Centers for
Disease Control, which reports
that pets can provide a healthy
influence by helping to decrease
blood pressure, cholesterol levels
and triglyceride levels as well as
alleviate feelings of loneliness.
The blues or
Hope may spring eternal this
time each year, but not everyone
can be optimistic and happy
when life stacks the deck with
change and stress. Even some of
life's happiest moments can be
stressful, leaving many feeling
sad and blue.
However, according to mental
health experts, the "blues" also can
be clinical depression, an illness
affecting 9.5 percent of the population
— more than 19 million
Americans each year.
If you have depression, you are
not alone. According to the National
Institutes of Health, of the
35 million Americans age 65 or
older, about 2 million suffer from
full-blown depression. Another
five million suffer from less severe
forms of the illness.
"Depression is a very real
illness that can be treated effectively,"
says Carol Wozniewski,
executive director, Mental
Health America of Illinois.
"Unfortunately, fewer than half
those with the illness seek treatment.
Too many believe it is a
normal part of life and that they
can treat it themselves."
Her message to those suspecting
something more than
"Seek help," she advises. "By
caring for your mental health and
getting help when you need it, you
can grow and enjoy life at any age.
Seeking help when you need it is a
sign of strength, not a weakness."
What is a
A depressive disorder is one
that involves the body, mood and
thoughts, according to experts at
the National Institute of Mental
Health. It can affect the way a
person eats, sleeps, feels about
themselves and the way one
thinks about things. They caution
it is not the same as a passing blue
mood. Without treatment, symptoms
can last for weeks, months
or even years.
"Growing old certainly
involves a variety of life transitions
and stressors that can lead to
depression," says Kathy Cordes,
social worker and counselor at
Provena Mercy Medical Center,
Aurora. "Families thin, friends
move, children leave home,
medical issues arise, serious illness
strikes a lifelong friend, or your
spouse — all are factors which can
lead to depression."
Major depression is manifested
by a combination of symptoms
and can interfere with the ability
to work, study, sleep, eat and even
enjoy pleasurable activities. While
such a major episode may only
occur once, experts caution it more
commonly occurs several times
throughout a lifetime. Without
treatment it may have up to an 80
percent rate of recurrence.
Dysthymia is another less severe,
type of depression, involving longterm,
chronic symptoms. While
they don't disable, symptoms may
keep sufferers from functioning
well or feeling good.
Bipolar disorder, also known as
manic-depressive disorder, is not
nearly as prevalent as other types
of depression. It is typified by a
cycling of mood changes ranging
from extreme highs (mania) to
lows (depression). In the manic
phase, sufferers may have excessive
energy, be over-talkative or
overactive, resulting in clouded
judgment, irrational thinking
Untreated depression poses
serious risks for older adults,
including illness, alcohol and
prescription drug abuse, a higher
mortality rate, and even suicide.
Mental health experts say it's important
to watch for the warning
signs and seek professional help
when you recognize it. The good
news is that with treatment and
support, depressed seniors can