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Depression common, but treatable among seniors

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 “Depression is not a normal part of aging. Depression is something that can very much be treated.”

Licensed Professional Counselor Armando Medrano Jr., manager for the Senior Intensive Outpatient Program at Valley Baptist Medical Center-Harlingen and VBMC-Brownsville, spoke with more than 100 senior citizens about depression issues last week during a monthly medical and health information session in Brownsville. Besides warning signs of depression and treatment options, he described in-patient and out-patient services available from VBMC.

Depression differs from sadness because the mental condition involves intense, long-term sadness, Medrano said. Symptoms can include frequent crying, lack of energy, an urge to stay in bed, and a lack of enthusiasm for life. People experiencing depression often no longer enjoy their favorite hobbies or pastimes, he said.

The deep, dark sadness or anxiety may be caused by grief over the loss of a loved one or another personal tragedy. Some older adults feel extreme anxiety about the troubles of their children, who are now adults. Depression also can be connected with excessive anger, low self-esteem, paranoia, hallucinations or confused thoughts.

“The most effective treatment is usually a combination of medication and therapy,” Medrano said. “If depression goes untreated, it can grow worse.”

An individualized diagnosis determines possible medications and behavior modifications. He reminded patients undergoing treatment who feel good to continue taking medications as prescribed because altering or stopping the dosage could cause a relapse.

He said depression patients on medications should be alert to possible side effects and regularly communicate with their physician and therapist about changes in their condition.

Many senior citizens and adults have relied upon strong beliefs and positive attitudes to overcome challenges in their lives, but sometimes it takes more than a bright outlook to reverse negative thoughts and behaviors, Medrano said.

“Sometimes, it takes more than talking to a friend or a loved one,” he said. “Maybe there’s something you would feel uncomfortable saying to them or maybe you feel they might not understand.”

That’s when counseling and group therapy become useful tools. Medrano said that VBMC will assist potential clients and their families determine insurance eligibility, veterans’ benefits and health-care fee assistance for counseling and group therapy.

VBMC offers free transportation up to three times per week for patients within a 20- to 25-mile radius of the program location who qualify for Senior Intensive Outpatient Program services.

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