Tackle depression among senior citizens, urge experts

SHAH ALAM: Serious attention should be given to women with symptoms of depression to ensure they can enjoy their twilight years positively and productively, say experts.

A psychogeriatric specialist at Hospital Sultanah Nur Zahirah, Dr Layuza Aliasad said this was because the 2018 National Health and Morbidity Survey found that one in 10 senior citizens in Malaysia had symptoms of depression.

“The Covid-19 pandemic, which is plaguing the world including Malaysia, has indirectly increased the tendency of senior citizens to experience depression because they cannot meet with their children and grandchildren.

“It is difficult to diagnose depression among the elderly compared to those in the adult group because adults are more open to admitting whether they are sad or depressed,” she said.

Symptoms that are associated with depression among senior citizens include loss of appetite, weight loss and fatigue, which are characteristics similar to those having chronic illnesses. Other characteristics are body pain with no clear cause, constant fatigue, loss of interest in activities including self-grooming, and a lack of focus that makes them forget things easily.

“Society sometimes misinterprets it as a senior citizen being senile when the person forgets, but it could be a sign of depression,” Dr Layuza said, adding that it was important for family members to evaluate changes in their elderly family members and to provide them with emotional support.

Senior citizens should not be allowed to feel lonely, she said.

“There are many factors that can cause senior citizens to feel depressed such as chronic diseases, going through physical changes like having to have their body parts amputated due to uncontrolled diabetic complications, uncontrolled consumption of traditional medicine that contains steroid, or a family history of depression.

“Senior citizens should avoid feeling depressed by adopting a healthy lifestyle by performing suitable exercise regularly, having a balanced diet and interacting frequently with family members and the surrounding community,” she said.

Based on the 2018 National Health and Morbidity Survey, besides senior citizens, other groups with a tendency to experience depression were individuals without a life partner such as single people, widowers, widows and those who lost their partners.

The same survey also found that women and rural residents are more prone to depression.

Those suffering from problems can reach out to: Mental Health Psychosocial Support Service (03-2935 9935 or 014-322 3392); Talian Kasih (15999 or WhatsApp 019-261 5999); Jakim’s Family, Social and Community care centre (WhatsApp 0111-959 8214); and Befrienders Kuala Lumpur (03-7627 2929 or www.befrienders.org.my/centre-in-malaysia for list of numbers and operating hours). — Bernama

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