The risks of using antidepressants generally have been established scientifically and there is plenty of reason for anyone using them or considering using them to earnestly consider these risks. Once a person is on antidepressants, it can be a very long hard road to get off of them.
As people age, cognitive function often starts to slip in some people. Taking antidepressants, for older adults, carries many risks that affect not only cognitive function but a wide variety of other aspects of emotional and physiological wellbeing. An extensive study undertaken by the British Medical Journal shows that antidepressant use among older adults (age +65) included “significant risks”:
“All classes of antidepressant drug were associated with significantly increased risks of all cause mortality, attempted suicide/self harm, falls, fractures, and upper gastrointestinal bleeding compared with when these drugs were not being used. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors [SSRIs] and the group of other antidepressant drugs were associated with increased risks of stroke/transient ischaemic attack and epilepsy/seizures; selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors were also associated with increased risks of myocardial infarction and hyponatraemia.”
There are plenty of reasons older people may contend with depression as they age. Many relocate late in life and have lost their comfortable network of friends; maybe they have left their jobs for retirement and feel useless or irrelevant; maybe they have lost a loved one. Regardless, they have lived long enough to have seen many sorrows. The temptation would be simply to prescribe something to help them get through.
This temptation ought to be avoided since (noted above) antidepressants have been shown to actually exacerbate symptoms of depression and inclinations toward self harm.
As a positive alternative to medicating, there are ways of helping aging adults to achieve inner peace and stability within reach and without the intervention of medication. The nature of a person’s community and social interactions goes a long way in aiding and healing depression.
A study done at the University of Rochester Medical Center highlight the fact that:
“If you’re not heading to an office or getting out and about each day, you may be missing out on important social interaction that you need to stay sharp, healthy, and maybe even ward off dementia. . . .Staying socially active and maintaining interpersonal relationships can help you maintain good physical and emotional health and cognitive function. . . . People who continue to maintain close friendships and find other ways to interact socially live longer than those who become isolated. Relationships and social interactions even help protect against illness by boosting your immune system.”
If you are an older adult who contends with depression, or if you know an older adult or loved one, the following tips will go a long way toward keeping them healthy and stable:
- Stay as active as possible
- Try to get 30 minutes of sunshine a day
- If you can manage it, get a pet
- Develop a network of friends and plan outings on a regular basis
- If able, volunteer somewhere
- If needed, contact a local place of worship and inquire about visitation ministries
- Play with children
- Take up music lessons or an art class
There are so many hidden treasures inside the minds and souls of aging loved ones who so often become neglected, ignored or dismissed as being irrelevant. People who have lived a long time hold wisdom and clarity that ought to be woven into the every-day operations of modern life. The stronger their sense of belonging, the lesser their slide toward depression.