Tag Archives: mental health

Healthy Aging Through Staying Connected

Healthy aging involves connections:

Healthy aging studies in recent years all continue to find that people who continue being active and involved with other people during their older years live longer, happier and healthier lives. Activities that have been identified as instrumental to healthy aging are volunteering, taking classes, engaging in hobbies, joining social groups, and pursuing spiritual or religious activities. Even if you’re confined to your home because of illness or disability, you may still maintain your connections with others by communicating over the telephone or e-mail. Maintaining connections with others through many of the following activities are some of the keys to healthy aging.

Healthy aging and volunteering:

It has been recognized for some time that there is a relationship between healthy aging and volunteering. Volunteering allows the opportunity for the elderly to use their skills and life experiences to benefit others. Hundreds and possibly thousands of organizations across the United States are happy to have elderly volunteers. Opportunities for volunteering are almost limitless, and may include working with other older adults in nursing homes, working with children or a multitude of other opportunities to benefit nonprofit or for-profit organizations and agencies.

Healthy aging and continuing education:

Lifelong learning is an interesting and effective way to continue to develop your mind as well as interact with other interesting people and learn new things. Many public libraries, community colleges and other public institutions offer a large variety of continuing education opportunities for the general public as well as many specific to the elderly. Classes may include anything from learning new languages, managing personal finances or even preparing income tax returns, as well as entertaining and creative topics such as music appreciation or painting.

Hobbies and social groups:

One of the best ways to maintain connections with others is through shared hobbies or mental and physical activities. You can either develop new hobbies or rediscover ones that you participated in at an earlier point in time. Although many activities can be done alone, you will usually find it is much more interesting and stimulating to do them with other people or groups. Hobbies that involve physical activity can be especially beneficial to an individual’s health. 

Healthy aging through spirituality and religion:

Many studies have found a connection between healthy aging and spirituality and/or religion. Spirituality and religion have been found to aid in the sense of belonging many older people need as well as providing a sense of meaning and comfort to their lives. While many people use the terms spirituality and religion synonymously, they are similar but not identical concepts. Spirituality is usually more associated with an individual’s feelings and experiences, and religion is more often associated with the actual institutions, structures and traditions associated with an individual’s religious connections. Most older people in America consider themselves to be both spiritual and religious.The following healthy aging benefits have been found to be associated with religion and spirituality:

A more positive attitude and sense of hope about an individual’s life, illnesses and circumstances.
The social elements of a religious community can be very helpful in maintaining connections among individuals.
Religion and spirituality seem to promote a sense of meaning and purpose in life, especially when a person is facing difficult experiences in their life. 
Many older people have found their religious community to provide the largest source of social support outside of their family, and their involvement in their religious community to be their most enjoyable form of voluntary social activity. They also find their religious community to be immensely helpful in assisting with carrying out their daily activities. Healthy aging benefits have also been found for people who attend religious services, in that they are also are more likely to be healthy, recover faster from illness or injury and also to live longer lives. Many people have found their religion to be the foundation of their ability to cope with health problems and stress, and a fundamental aspect of their healthy aging program.

Information adapted from the Merck Manual of Health and Aging

Additional information and webpage by Paul Susic Ph.D. Licensed Psychologist 


Mental Health Counseling and Stress Management

Both for counselors and clients involved in mental support, increased levels of physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual stress can make challenges worse. It is fairly common knowledge that anxiety, panic, fear, anger/rage, loss of focus, PTSD, chemical dependency and other forms of addiction, and compulsive behaviors are either created, or made worse, as a response to stress. I believe that depression or depressive episodes are often the back side of anxiety (and over stimulation.) With the physiologic response to stressors/anxieties at least partially shutting down the higher function of the decision making neo-cortex, stress can lead to poor problem solving, reduced abilities to communicate, and increased psycho-pathologies.

If you can see the role stress plays in relationship to increased mental health challenges, then the contrary, the practice of stress management, can lead to reduced demonstrations of symptoms. Forms of stress management, biofeedback, “desensitization,” “mindfulness,” and other anxiety reducing practices (like yoga, meditation, diet, exercise, etc) can prove very therapeutic in helping to control the causes of anxiety/stress related symptoms. Beyond symptom control, for the motivated client, I feel that using these techniques until mastered and then regularly, and preventively, can benefit a person by “empowering” them with body awareness, present living mindfulness, and new skills to control stressed out physiologies.
Empowerment of the individual is the key! Self-awareness and then self-control (of habitually held stress) enables a person to feel better in control of available time and energy and better able to self-minimize, if not eliminate, psychological symptoms and emotional/spiritual pain & conflict. Spending time in a “positive” way, in the present moment, leads to reduced fear and anxiety. This new self-control can often lead to reduced needs for psycho-active medications, alcohol, or street drugs.

Stress management, biofeedback, other behavioral techniques, and other stress reducing practices are not difficult to learn, but finding the time and motivation to use these effective techniques often requires support and counsel. For therapists, counselors, teachers, and concerned family members, these same techniques are essential in minimizing the potential for “burn-out,” “over-load,” and reduction in the ability to care for your client, student, or family member. To be a positive role model by regularly practicing stress management, seems an obvious self-care strategy that serves all parties in therapeutic relationships.

I may be “preaching to the choir” but even the obvious needs to be restated. Basic stress management is a necessary element to psycho-therapy. The extra element of simple biofeedback practices is a beneficial feature offering personal awareness that leads to better levels of self-control.

About the Author:

Since 1978, the Stress Education Center has offered coaching, training and products for stress management.
L. John Mason, Ph.D. is the country’s leading stress management expert and the author of the best selling “Guide to Stress Reduction.” Since 1977, he has offered Success & Executive Coaching and Training.

Please visit the Stress Education Center’s website at Stress, Stress Management, Coaching, and Training for articles, free ezine signup, and learn about the new telecourses that are available. If you would like information or a targeted proposal for training or coaching, please contact us at (360) 593-3833.
If you are looking to promote your training or coaching career, please investigate the Professional Stress Management Training and Certification Program for a secondary source of income or as career path.

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How can I cope better with anger?

Coping With Anger Overview:

Coping with anger appropriately is something we all have to learn to do. It may be manifested in various ways, resulting in anything from minor annoyance to a psychotic rage. In most cases anger is a healthy, completely normal emotion that can even be helpful at times, indicating that an emotional or physical violation has occurred which may be necessary for us to pay attention to and respond to. Nature has a way of providing us with an awareness of potentially harmful threats to both our physical and emotional well-being as well as a system of appraisal which functions primarily on an unconscious level, assessing potentially damaging threats or stimuli, activating arousal of our autonomic nervous system and resulting in a response that may preserve our physical or emotional well-being.

Our ability to cope with anger effectively may determine our ability to function in society, maintain healthy interpersonal relationships, maintain a job and ultimately may have a tremendous effect on your entire life.

Anger, like most emotions is accompanied by both physiological as well as biological changes in your body. It may result in an increase in your heart rate and blood pressure, increases in hormonal energy levels; adrenaline and noradrenaline. It may also prepare you for the primitive responses of “fight or flight”.

When dealing with anger, it is important to be aware of both the external and internal events that are responsible for its occurrence. You may be upset at a coworker or neighbor for something they said or possibly did, or it may have an internal origin such as brooding over something or worrying about your own personal problems. Memories of traumatic or hurtful events can also trigger anger.

How about expressing anger?

People often times believe that expressing their anger to be the healthiest way of coping with thier anger. You should make it clear what your needs are and how to get them met without hurting other people. Being assertive does not mean being demanding, lacking respect and showing inconsideration for another individual’s feelings or needs. Many times it is wrong to express anger through aggressive behaviors. While it may be true that aggression may be a natural, adaptive response to threats and sometimes may be necessary to preserve your physical or emotional well-being, it frequently results in an overreaction to the circumstances rather than an accurate reflection of what has taken place.

Coping With Anger: Conscious and Unconscious Processes

People frequently use a variety of both unconscious and conscious processes in coping with their anger. Studies have found that there are primarily three main approaches to coping with anger including; expressing, suppressing, and calming.

Expressing Your Anger:

Expressing your anger in an assertive way is probably the healthiest way to cope with your anger. You should make it clear what your needs are and how to get them met without hurting other people. Being assertive does not mean being demanding and not respecting others feelings or showing consideration for their feelings or needs.

Suppressing your Anger:

Many people suppress their anger and then convert it and ultimately redirect it. Oftentimes, this happens when people deny or attempt to stop thinking about it and try to re-focus their attention on to something else. The objective in these circumstances is to suppress the anger and convert it into more constructive behavior. The problem however is that denial of these feelings in an outward expression may lead to anger being turned inward and possibly expressed at a later point in time, and/or in a very inappropriate way. Suppressing anger has been found to have a high correlation with hypertension, high blood pressure and sometimes even depression. It can also lead to pathological expressions such as passive-aggressive behavior (oftentimes getting back at people indirectly) or it may affect the personality by causing the person to become hostile and cynical.

Calming Your Anger:

Coping with anger appropriately may involve calming yourself down inside. This doesn’t involve just controlling your outward behavior, but also focusing on controlling your internal responses and consciously forcing yourself to relax. You then need to take steps to lower your heart rate, and let the angry feelings subside.

Coping with Anger: Conclusion

Finally, sometimes it may be necessary to get some counseling or additional assistance and learning specific techniques for coping with anger. Sometimes that may involve considering past hurtful experiences and resolving problems with others.

By Paul Susic Ph.D. Licensed Psychologist

Emotions And The Wisdom That Comes With Age

Wisdom comes with age, at least when it comes to your emotions, according to a University of Alberta researcher. In a June 16, 2006 article at ScienceDaily, a collaborative study was conducted between researchers from the University of Alberta and Duke University which has proven that when it comes to your emotions, wisdom really does come with age.

This research was conducted by Dr. Florin Dolcos, assistant professor of psychiatry and neuroscience in the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, who was able to identify patterns in the brain that seemed to assist older people in regulating and controlling their emotions better than younger people. Research found two areas of the brain that showed increased activity when individuals over the age of 60 were shown pictures of emotionally challenging situations. 

Dr. Dolcos stated: “Previous studies have provided evidence that healthy older individuals have a positivity bias–they can actually manage how much attention they give to negative situations so they’re less upset by them. Dr. Dolcos is a member of the Alberta Cognitive Neuroscience Group which helps to coordinate researchers from the University of Alberta to explore the functioning of the brain and the human thought processes including perception, learning, attention, language, memory, decision-making, emotion and development. He went on to state “We didn’t understand how the brain worked to give seniors this sense of perspective until now.” 

Both younger and older participants were asked during the study to rate the emotional content of various images as positive, negative, or neutral, while the activity of their brain was monitored with a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine. The fMRI is a high-tech device that uses a large magnet to take pictures inside the brain. Images were rated as less negative by the older participants when compared to younger participants. The fMRI scans helped researchers to observe these reactions among the senior participants in the study. Certain areas of the brain such as the amygdala, a brain region involved in emotions and the anterior cingulate cortex, a region of the brain involved in emotional control were scanned and showed increased interactions. Dr. Dolcos stated “These findings indicate that emotional control improves with aging, and that it’s the increased interaction between these two brain regions that allows healthy seniors to control their emotional response so that they are less affected by upsetting situations.” 

The study was published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging, and was performed in collaboration with Ms. Peggy St. Jacques and under the coordination of Dr. Roberto Cabeza, both of Duke University. 

Dr. Dolcos then concluded that this research may have clinical implications. He said “If we can better understand how the brain works to create a positivity bias in older people, then we can apply this knowledge to better understand and treat mental health issues with the negativity bias, such as depression and anxiety disorders, in which patients have difficulty coping with emotionally challenging situations.” 

Adapted from: 
University of Alberta Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry (2008, June 16). Wisdom Comes With Age, At Least When It Comes To Emotions. ScienceDaily. Retrieved June 28, 2008, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2008/06/080612185428.htm

Additional Information and webpage by Paul Susic Ph.D. Licensed Psychologist

Geriatric Depression: Don’t We All Feel Sad, Sometimes? By Paul Susic Ph.D. Licensed Psychologist

An overview of geriatric depression:

Geriatric depression appears in many forms. Although everyone feels sad sometimes, which is a natural response to negative circumstances and loss, ultimately, the feelings associated with bad experiences are qualitatively very different from geriatric depression. While it may be similar in that it can initially arise as a result of a sad event or circumstance, or specific medical condition that is not always the case. Sometimes geriatric depression has been known to occur for no apparent reason. Among the senior population, psychologists frequently see depression occurring as a result of physical illness, or merely at the same time, a term that we refer to as comorbidity.

An important factor to understand about geriatric depression as well as depression in general is that it appears very differently to different people. One person may have a sense of “feeling blue” as they try to conduct their normal everyday activities and another person may feel a very heavy feeling that makes it almost impossible for them to even get out of a chair. This heavy feeling of despair can become absolutely incapacitating. Unfortunately, it could even become much worse in that this overwhelming sense of despair and feeling of worthlessness could even lead your loved one to even turn to suicide for relief.

You should never underestimate the incapacitating feelings associated with geriatric depression. In my clinical work, I’ve heard many people over the years blame seniors for their conditions as if they did not have a strong enough will to relieve their suffering on their own. The blaming actually makes it much worse as people then start feeling responsible for their condition. I don’t believe that many people choose to feel bad. And certainly, it doesn’t make the situation better for people to feel like it is their fault.

The elderly are frailer and their bodies are more susceptible to a variety of circumstances and conditions which contribute to their geriatric depression. There are many physical conditions including strokes, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis which seem to predispose seniors and others to depression. Also, medications are infamous for increasing the level of depression among the elderly. In addition to these comorbid medical conditions which seem to predispose or exacerbate the experience of depression among the elderly, geriatric depression is frequently precipitated by changing life circumstances as individuals proceed into their senior years.

The most prominent life circumstance that contributes to geriatric depression is the experience of loss. As seniors are no longer able to maintain their homes for example, they are frequently required to move into nursing facilities, move in with family members or otherwise unwillingly change their living circumstances. This is a tremendous loss for them to endure. Loss is also common in many other forms including loss of physical mobility, driving privileges and the loss of finances and the status of working or having a profession. When we do not choose circumstances but are forced into them as result of the aging process, this experience frequently leads to a feeling of loss..

While statistics very significantly it is believed that geriatric depression is experienced by approximately one out of every six older people. Some of these people have a recurrence of depression experienced earlier in their life. For others, their first clinically diagnosed emotional problem arises in the form of geriatric depression.

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How to Grow Old Gracefully in a Care Home

Aging is defined as “the accumulation of changes in an organism or object over time.” In human beings the aging process refers to physical, psychological, and social changes that are occurring as we get older. Some of these factors will grow over time, while others will decline.

Pursuing proper learning regarding this avails us with the ability to cope with the aging process. Maturity relates to certain abilities in a person’s life. Appreciating the simpler things in life, seeing the positive in things rather than the negative, and learning how to interact with others as well as understanding their situation is all a part of the maturity process. But the bottom line is coping and preparing.

What happens when you age?

As the body ages, immunity goes down, the chances of osteoporosis (depletion of calcium from the bones) and other organ related diseases is higher due to the body’s incapacitated to renew cells. A proper balanced, nutritious diet, moderate exercise and a positive attitude can go a long way in keeping both the body and mind healthy.

Having the proper attitude about getting or growing older, and knowing the difference is what will make the process easier to deal with. Resisting from a physical standpoint will only get more frustrating for you as time passes. The best attitude is to make the best of it and attempt to grow older as gracefully as possible. That is where care homes step in providing the security of constant attendance as and when required, in a relaxed atmosphere with a degree of personal independence.

Types of Care Homes

As a person ages, the requirement for familiar surroundings and a place to call their own becomes imperative, but to stay home alone may not be possible after a certain age. While you look around for a care home, it’s best to ascertain what is required and the degree of assistance that the elderly person will require before finalizing the place. Some degenerating diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and dementia require constant monitoring and supervision as the disease progresses.

To solve these problems of aged people, there are many options available such as Extra Care Housing, Sheltered Housing, Close Care Homes, Dual Registered Homes and Care Homes with Nursing.

• Extra Care Housing
As the name suggests, the extra sheltered housing has a variety of support facilities. A 24 hour care is available to meet individual requirements with a variability to respond in intensive care needs. The positive aspects of extra Care Housing are that it promotes a feeling of independence and living in a community with the 24 hours available support. Additional help of assisted baths and laundry services are available. But these types of homes are localized and may not be able to provide a home for life.

• Sheltered Housing
These are self contained flats within a complex where the Warden maintains a regular contact with the people and is on call, when help is required. This is best for those who want to remain independent, with the option of remaining secure. The best aspect of Sheltered Housing is that it provides the security of community living while retaining independence. Well maintained gardens and community parks that d not require personal maintenance while the facilities of a 24 hour emergency bell in each house are additional benefits. The cons of this kind of a facility are that there is no care provided and meals are not catered to. If the old person requires additional care facility or nursing requirement arises they will have to be moved.

• Close Care Homes

Though these are similar to quite an extend to Sheltered homes, where residents are able to maintain personal independence, in Close care homes, apartments and bungalows which are located within the care home grounds can be rented or bought. These are popular because the security of 24 hours care is provided and the facilities of the main unit can be enjoyed such as outdoor trips, community activities etc. Some of these care homes also provide domestic help for personal services. As per requirement, the option of moving into the main building is available if extra care is required.

• Dual Registered Homes
Some care homes are Dual Registered- that is -registered for both nursing and residential care. Elderly people with major handicaps or serious medical conditions might require a home with constant medical attendance or some just need residential homes but medical assistance might be needed in the future, so they do not have to be shifted then, as these types of homes provide both facilities.

• Care Homes with Nursing Facility
These are good options for those who require constant nursing care and medical assistance round the clock. There are qualified nurses on duty, meals and other services are inclusive in the charges. Additional features include facilities of constant assistance is provided for personal care and different activities are arranged that suit an individuals requirements. However, there is little personal freedom and rooms may seem a little smaller. These are only suited to infirm and elderly people who need to have constant nursing and medical requirements.

Essentials of A Care home – Deciding Factors

Well established care homes provide security, comfort and care with the constant nursing requirements as per requirement. Assisted personal care, basic nursing care and independence are the hall mark of quality care homes. Each resident is usually provided with a separate furnished room with bathroom while nursing and housekeeping staff looks after daily needs, which may vary according to individual requirements.

It’s good to do a general research, look up a few homes and then decide on the basis of these points–
– What is the strength of nursing staff and care givers at night?
– Ask about the level of personal care that is provided in the home.
– Simulating facilities that are available.
– Check if personal items are allowed to make the place more personal.
– See if residents are encouraged to go on walks and stay outdoors
– How much does the care home have an interaction with the local community?
– Does the menu cater to a variety of tastes or does it have a standard menu?

These might just be a few features but do heed them, while checking out a care home for a family member. Aging is irreversible so it is best to make the sunset years as comfortable as possible so, choosing a care home becomes an essential aspect of growing old gracefully.

Anita Choudhary has been freelancing and writing on a variety of topics for over 4 years. She provides professional copywriting and editing services. Check out http://www.webseowriter.com for more information.

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Anita_Choudhary

Additional Information and webpage by Paul Susic Ph.D. Licensed Psychologist

Symptoms of Depression and the Aging Process

While symptoms of depression are obviously impacted by physical illness the consequences of the aging process can also mimic some of these symptoms. These considerations have caused many to question whether somatic symptoms of depression such as insomnia, fatigue and appetite and weight loss are really valid indicators in the elderly. One recent survey looking at this issue determined that appetite loss was not a valid symptom of depression in the elderly, but concluded that sleep disturbance and fatigue were. With this study, fatigue was demonstrated by diminished levels of energy and by feeling that almost everything was very difficult to accomplish. Fatigue was particularly associated with symptoms of depression among the old-old long-term care subjects in this study.

This information was not meant to conclude that appetite and weight loss were never associated with symptoms of depression among long-term care residents. These studies reflect the fact that there are many causes for appetite loss in the elderly including physical illness, the aging process in general and symptoms of depression. These results indicate that lack of appetite loses the powerful association with symptoms of depression that are usually seen in younger adults. Nevertheless, there are many residents of long-term care facilities who lose their appetite and sometimes significant weight due to depression. As a result, long-term care residents who lose more than a couple of pounds should always be evaluated for depression symptoms when a clear physical cause is not easily identified.

A study by Morley and Kraenzle evaluating residents in long-term care facilities who lost five or more pounds over a period of three or more months, may underscore the importance of recognizing the multiple factors usually associated with weight loss for residents in long-term care facilities. They found that depression was the cause of weight loss for large minority (36%) of long-term care facilities in their study. For about half of the residents in their study, it was determined that physical causes such as medications, swallowing disorders or cancer may actually be the causative factor.

Some information from the Merck Manual of Health and Aging

Additional information and webpage by Paul Susic Ph.D. Licensed Psychologist (Health and Geriatric Psychologist)

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Seniors Mental Health & Depression

A majority of men and women from the ages of 55-74 report they are satisfied with their lives and are currently in good health. While periods of depression may occur among seniors, it is important to remember that it is not a normal part of aging.

Depression is the most common mental health concern for older adults, affecting between 15 to 20 percent of older adults living in the community. It is not a normal part of aging. Symptoms such as decreased energy, poor sleep and preoccupation with health problems should be viewed as possible symptoms of a treatable illness and are NOT a result of the aging process.

Treatment for depression works, yet too many people remain undiagnosed and untreated because they don’t recognize the signs and symptoms of depression.

Mental health specialists generally agree on the following definition of major depression:

1.Symptoms persist for two weeks or longer
2.People either have depressed moods or seem unable to enjoy life.
3.Major depression should be considered if four of the following seven criteria are present:
•A change in sleeping habits (more or less than usual)
•A change in eating habits or weigh
•Low energy or fatigue
•Trouble concentrating
•Feeling worthless or excessively guilty
•Marked restlessness or slowed-down movements
•Thoughts of death or suicide

Depression can be defined as an imbalance of brain chemicals triggered by stress and life events, including biological, psychological and social factors.

Depression is NOT a character or personality flaw.

Many of the signs of depression may also indicate other problems or medical conditions – It is important to consult with a doctor to determine if your symptoms indicate depression or another medical condition.

Depression is often difficult to recognize among the senior population and it tends to be under diagnosed. Living with depression not only prevents older adult from fully enjoying their lives but it puts a strain upon their health, which can lead to other medical concerns. It is also very difficult for their caregivers and places a strain on their health as well.

What we do know is that there is no one cause for depression- every individual is unique in what may cause their depression, and what may trigger a depressive episode. Some possible causes and risk factors include genetics and family history, brain chemistry, personality, major illness, medications & alcohol, and life events. Risk factors for serious depression, particularly in older adults, may include loss and bereavement, lack of social support, isolation, living in poverty, being a caregiver, and abuse.

Having depression could also increase the risk of suicide among older adults, particularly in older males. According to the CDC, seniors account for more than 16% of all suicide deaths. Older adults who are over the age of 60 are far more likely to have a higher risk rate of suicide than younger people. If you feel that a friend or a loved one is suicidal, encourage them to seek out help either from a doctor, friend, crisis centre or, mental health agency.

Some things to keep in mind:

•Keep a positive attitude. Remember that slowing down does not mean you have to come to a complete stop. Chances are you will still be able to do almost all the things you used to; you may just need to take a little more time and learn to pace yourself.
•See your family doctor regularly. He/she can, then, deal with any changes or symptoms that require medical attention.
•Be careful about your medications. As you get older, they may begin to interact differently with other drugs and to affect you differently than before. Make sure your doctor knows about all your medications, even those prescribed by another doctor.
•Take responsibility for your own health. Do not hesitate to ask your doctor questions; some do not offer explanations unless asked.

Depression is a serious disorder that is treatable. In addition, dealing with an individual who is suffering from depression or at risk of suicide can be absolutely overwhelming for a caregiver. Although the caregiver is providing care and assistance to their loved ones they must also look after their own emotional, mental, and physical well-being.

While all of us may feel sad from time to time, sadness is not depression and it is important to remember that depression is not a normal part of aging.

About eldercaring.ca

Elder Caring Inc. http://www.eldercaring.ca is a group of experts with backgrounds in Social Work, Occupational Therapy, Physiotherapy and Gerontology. As working professionals in the field, all of our team members have many years of experience in working with the disabled, the elderly, and their families. The company has team members and representatives across Canada.

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Webpage by Paul Susic Ph.D. Licensed Psychologist Clinical Director of Senior Care Psychological Consulting

Personality Study on Depression: Risk of First Episode in Late Life

A recent study by the University of Rochester Medical Center found that certain personality characteristics were associated with a higher risk of having a first incidence of depression in later life. As reported in an April 14, 2008 article at ScienceDaily, people over the age of 70 whose personality characteristics make them more vulnerable to having feelings of distress, insecurity, anxiety and worry, are far more likely to experience a first episode of clinical depression in their later years than those who do not exhibit these same characteristics.

Paul R. Duberstein Ph.D., professor of psychiatry, and the lead researcher stated “We assume that because depression has not developed for people with these personality traits by the age of 70 that it won’t develop.” He went on to state that: “But even in older adulthood, these traits confer risk. Presumably something about aging helps take down the facade or destroys the protective sheath that has kept them from significant depression.”

Additional results from this unique study are published in the May edition of the journal Psychological Medicine. The study found that women were at greater risk than men and that individuals having a working-class background were also at increased risk for depression particularly prior to the age of 80. The study will help to understand some of the personality characteristics associated with late life depression. Dr. Duberstein, who is director of the Laboratory of Personality and Development at the Medical Center stated: “The findings suggest that long-standing personality traits can predict onset of depression into older adulthood.”

Researchers in this study considered data from a multidisciplinary study of 70-year-old residents from Goteborg, Sweden which began in 1971 in order to have a better understanding of aging, and some of the age-related disorders that develop among this age group.

Because most individuals in Sweden receive public healthcare, the study had access to medical records going back several decades. Data collection also included physical, mental health and social assessment. Individuals were then examined periodically over a 15 year period of time, at the ages of 75, 79, 81, 83 and 85.

Individuals with dementia and some other psychiatric disorders were eliminated from the study. Overall, a total of 275 records were analyzed, finding 59 cases of first lifetime episodes of depression after the age of 70. Authors of the study stated: “Although we are aware of no research on how people who are highly distress prone managed to stave off clinically significant depression, protective factors might play a role.” They went on to conclude that: “Candidate protective factors include close personal relationships, rewarding occupations or meaningful hobbies, physical vigor and vitality, economic independence, and spiritual well-being. Processes related to aging might inexorably erode some of these protective factors.”

The researchers obviously recommend continuing the study between age, personality and first-time episodes of depression. They stated: “This is a particularly important issue for older men, given their high suicide rate in many Western countries, and the observation that they often take their lives in the midst of a first lifetime episode of depression.”

Adapted from an article at ScienceDaily (April 14, 2008) Personality Study Shows Risk of First Depression Episode Late in Life

University of Rochester Medical Center (2008, April 14). Personality Study Shows Risk Of First Depression Episode Late In Life. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 17, 2008, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2008/04/080411124607.htm

Additional Information and webpage by Paul Susic Ph.D. Licensed Psychologist

Elderly Report More Depression in Long-Term Care Than at Home

The elderly self-report more depression and are more likely to be prescribed antidepressants in long term care facilities according to a new study. This recent study reported at ScienceDaily (May 9, 2008), was conducted by social work students at Indian University.
The researchers studied 272 elders with an average age of 81, and compared how often they self-reported depression, and were prescribed antidepressants at home or at a long-term care facility. The study was conducted through a homecare agency in west central Indiana.

While 11% of the elders reported feeling depressed when they received care in their homes through medical and social services, 30% of the elders reported the same depressive feelings at a long-term care facility. Also, 62% of the elders in long-term care facilities were prescribed antidepressants at some point time after their admission, compared to only about 25% of the elders cared for at home.

Lindsay Egan and Jodi Shapuras, both undergraduate students in the social work program at Indiana State University, conducted their study at their internships as part of a senior-level field practicum class. Shapuras and Egan stated “We are both interested in working with the elderly population in our careers, so we conducted this research to get a better feel for the prevalence of depression and those who need some level of outside care.” Shapuras stated “As social workers, it is important to understand the mental health issues, such as depression, within the different care settings.”

Neither of the researchers seemed to be too surprised by their findings. “We actually hypothesized that the long-term care patients would utilize antidepressants more and would self-report depression more,” Egan said. “When an individual moves to a long-term care facility, they undergo a tremendous amount of changes. They’re no longer able to live independently and are relying on others for care, and this greatly affects how they feel about themselves and the world around them.” Shapuras concluded that in an individual’s home, they’re still residing in a familiar environment. “They’re still at home and independently able to complete some activities of daily living, such as bathing, cooking or feeding themselves, whereas a long-term care patient may not be able to do all of those tasks.” She concluded.

The researchers are hoping that their study will help to create a higher level of awareness of depression among the elderly, and the degree to which antidepressants are prescribed in long-term care settings. Egan stated “I would like to see more effective alternative treatments researched, as opposed to what seems to in many cases to be the automatic prescribing an antidepressant.” Shapuras also said she would like to see more research done in this area and concluded that “It seems as though medications are sometimes viewed as the “fix-all” when depression becomes apparent.” She went on to say, “I hope to work in the field of gerontology as a social worker and to make some positive changes somewhere along the line.”

By Paul Susic Ph.D. Licensed Psychologist

Information adapted from:

Indiana State University (2008, May 9). Elderly In Long-term Care Setting Suffer Depression More Than Those Cared For At Home. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 13, 2008, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2008/05/080508181557.htm