Depression: How Senior and Disabled Adults Can Overcome It

May 23, 2016

James, a 42 year old from Greenville, SC was in an automobile accident in 2000 resulting in a serious spinal cord injury. After the accident, James became very depressed and started having anxiety attacks at home and whenever he left his house. There were times he did not want to be around people.

While James acknowledged that he had the support of his family and friends, he still felt that he needed something more in his life.

Fortunately, in 2005, he had a case manager who identified the warning signs and offered him a lifeline in the form of adult day care. Adult day care filled a void for him. The social interaction combined with the opportunity to help others who were facing far greater challenges changed James’ perspective. He began getting out of the house more and his life had purpose and meaning.

Today, James attends the adult day care center in Greenville three days a week, and while he is there he helps the staff with the younger adult group. Whenever there is a new admission, James spends the day with them making them feel welcome. Although he was born without an arm, he is a very gifted artist. In addition to helping others, he spends much of his time drawing and painting while he’s at the center.

James’ case isn’t unusual. More than 15 million adults in America suffer from severe depression. And disabled adults and seniors are common prey. Although less publicized, depression among seniors and disabled adults is a significant problem, as they more so than others, are prone to face many of the common triggers (chronic medical conditions, financial problems, loss of close friends and family members).

While depression can strike anyone, a report from the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention found a correlation between depression and age. Specifically, the report found the following.

• Six to nine percent of older Americans who are in a primary care setting suffer from major depression.
• Suicide rates for men rise with age, most significantly after age 65.
• The rate of suicide in men 65+ is seven times that of females who are 65+.
• The suicide rates for women peak between the ages of 45-54 years old, and again after age 75.
• About 60 percent of elderly patients who take their own lives see their primary care physician
within a few months of their death.
• Risk factors for suicide among seniors include: a previous attempt, the presence of a mental
illness, the presence of a physical illness, social isolation (some studies have shown this is especially so in older males who are recently widowed) and access to means, such as the availability of firearms in the home.

If left alone, depression not only prevents seniors and disabled adults from living life to the fullest, but can seriously affect their health. By learning to identify the signs of depression and finding ways to get them the help they need, they can be happy and remain vibrant throughout their lives.

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