When you think of summer, what comes to mind? Vacations and getaways… hiking in the mountains…or enjoying a relaxing day by the pool?

For many, these are common summer time activities. But for some individuals — especially seniors 65 and older — summer in the desert can be a very isolated time that triggers a lack of motivation and persistent sadness. These changes in mood and thoughts could be the result of late-life depression and are common among seniors who have suffered chronic or serious health problems.

“The so-called ‘golden years’ can be a very difficult stage of life for many people. Particularly those in their 80s or 90s who live independently and alone, with no nearby relatives and extended families far away, and those whose spouse and close friends are no longer with us,” explains Anthony Bassanelli, MD, Board Certified Psychiatrist.

“Many of our seniors feel lonely and depressed. Who wouldn’t in this situation?” he continues. “And when you factor in the health issues that come with aging, life can be extremely difficult for many older adults.”

Other frequently observed scenarios involve seniors with a history of depression or bipolar disorder. Their condition may have worsened with age or when medications are no longer effective. This extends to individuals who just aren’t feeling or acting “right” — they may be anxious, and those close to them may be concerned the individuals are depressed or experiencing the early stages of dementia.

Family members and friends often identify changes in their loved ones first; noticing troubles with enjoyment, anxiety, sleep disturbances, feelings of worthlessness or helplessness. Depression may occur in the context of multiple physical problems; such as persistent complaints of pain, headaches, fatigue, gastrointestinal symptoms, arthritis and weight loss.

Treatment for senior age depression is achieved in a number of ways. Under most circumstances it is important to be treated by a mental health professional. A place for seniors to seek treatment in the Coachella Valley is Eisenhower’s Center for Geropsychiatry. At the Center, a biopsychosocial approach allows the treatment team to look at the whole person, utilizing an entire team of experts who are focused on each patient’s unique situation and needs.

The treatment team may include a psychiatrist, registered nurse, social worker and recreational therapist who meet with the patient as a group every day. Family members, significant others and care providers are frequently invited to attend these daily review sessions, and to participate, as those closest to the patient may observe symptoms that neither the professional team nor the patient recognize. “This level of attentiveness and comprehensive care is unique in geriatric mental health programs,” Dr. Bassanelli notes.

For many, aging often presents a range of complex issues. Some physical, some mental, and all important in maintaining whole body wellness throughout one’s ‘golden years’ and especially, our hot desert summers.

To find help for a senior who might be suffering from depression, please contact Eisenhower’s Center for Geropsychiatry 760-837-8767. Service is available 24 hours a day.

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