October is Depression Awareness month. But writing about depression, is just, well, kind of depressing. It not a subject you mention when you want to liven up a conversation. But it doesn’t have to be because depression can be treated. And with the right supports, treatment, and self-help strategies, one can feel better and live a happy and fulfilling life.
The challenge is that depression is often misunderstood, overlooked or just ignored. Many older adults feel depression is just an inevitable part of aging. And with a reluctance to talk about it, and the greater social isolation that often occurs with aging, it frequently goes unnoticed.
I always thought depression was easy to identify. It was just a severe case of the “blues”, a sadness we all experience at times in our lives. But many older adults who suffer from depression deny they are sad. Instead their symptoms may be unexplained aches and pains, feelings of hopelessness/helplessness, memory problems, anxiety and worries. They may also exhibit a lack of motivation and energy, no longer interested in socializing and hobbies; and neglecting personal care such as missing meals and forgetting meds - which just makes things worse. And unlike grief, which has its ups and downs, good days and bad, clinical depression has feelings of emptiness and despair that are constant.
The causes of depression are many. But for older adults common triggers are chronic medical conditions, loss of loved ones and friends, loneliness and isolation, the side effects of commonly prescribed prescription drugs, decreased ability to participate in activities, and the fear of death.
Professional help is recommended, but there are also many ways you can help yourself: exercising, connecting with others, managing the daily stress and pressures, getting enough sleep, eating well, participating in activities you enjoy, volunteering your time, taking care of a pet, and learning a new skill. Things we should all be doing anyway – except maybe taking care of a pet!
Depression is serious and affects more than just your mood. It affects your energy, your sleep, appetite and your physical health. But it doesn’t have to be that way. With the appropriate help you can feel good at any age.
If you want to learn more, you can attend the Center’s 11:00 Tuesday Lecture on October 28th when Mary E. Zenorini, a MCMC Behavioral Health Consultant, will discuss Depression in Older Adults. Or visit online Helpguide.org, an ad-free health resource guide in collaboration with Harvard Health Publications.
For the Fall/Winter Creative Arts classes, Debra Jones has lined up another great series of 1 ½ hour classes, each with a different theme. In the first class at 1:00 on Tuesday, October 28th, you will be decorating a straw wreath with Halloween ribbons, wrapped candy and decorations. All the supplies are provided and the cost is $2.00 - but limited to only 8 people. The classes usually fill up quickly, so call the Center soon to sign up.
If you enjoy the music of Patsy Cline you will want to spend your evening at The Dalles - Wasco County Public Library on Thursday 23rd starting at 6:30 PM to hear southwest Washington’s own Elizabeth Stierle performing a tribute to Patsy Cline. And there is more music at the Center. On Tuesday the 28th, you can listen and dance to the Highline Express starting at 7:00 PM. And earlier in the day, before and after the Meals-on-Wheels lunch at the Center, you can listen to Andre Lemoreaux and K.C. Kortge.
Joseph McCarthy was the U.S. Senator, who during the 1954 Army – McCarthy hearings was asked by attorney Joseph Welch “Have you left no sense of decency?” (And the winner of a free Saturday Breakfast is Alex Currie.)
For the next several “Remember When” questions, I’ll be asking about places in The Dalles that are long gone, but not forgotten. This one comes from Truman Boler who heard that when Claude Akins was on the Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show he mentioned he had visited The Dalles while filming along the Rowena Loops and never before had he eaten at a restaurant/lounge that had an Irish name, served Chinese food and played country music. What was the name of the restaurant/lounge? E-mail your answer to firstname.lastname@example.org, call 541-296-4788 or drop it off at the Center in a fortune cookie.
Well, it’s been another week learning once again when you gotta go, you gotta go. Until we meet again, never burn a bridge - you may find it’s the only way back home.
“Life is full of misery, loneliness, and suffering - and it's all over much too soon.” Woody Allen