Ruling Out Physical Causes as a Cause of Depression in the Elderly

depression and physical causes,medications and depression,elderly depression,total healthIf you have a loved one who is experiencing depression, the first thing you want to do is rule out physical ailments. Physical ailments might include heart problems, Parkinson’s disease, hypothyroidism, or a dozen other ailments. If the depressed person has not had an annual checkup, or if it has been some time since he or she saw a doctor, then a checkup or doctor visit is in order.

Most of us do not have the expertise to make a proper diagnosis; however, we can be an advocate for loved ones and help rule out any physical problems causing depression.  Ways to advocate include:

  • Check with your loved one about any prior or current health problems or genetic diseases.
  • If you suspect a certain illness, learn about it, then observe and ask questions. 
  • Make sure your loved one chooses a doctor who specializes in working with the elderly. Also, if an elderly person sees several doctors, it is helpful to have a single doctor, such as gerontologist, overseeing and coordinating health care.
  • Make sure appointments are made and kept.
  • Go with your loved one to the appointment and have a list of questions prepared.
  • Talk with the doctor about your concerns.

You must also rule out any medication problems. To do this

  • Ensure the person is taking prescribed medications and taking proper dosages.
  • Rule out allergies to any drugs.
  • Monitor negative medication reactions.

Resolving medication issues often cannot be accomplished on your own. You need to rely on a pharmacist or doctor who has a clear understanding of how medications interact with one another. This is particularly important if someone is taking different medications prescribed by different doctors. If there is no one overseeing what is being prescribed, it is easy to have problems. So, gather all the medications together—prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, herbs, and supplements—and take them to the pharmacist or doctor for evaluation.

Medscape also offers an online drug interaction checker, so click here to access it. You may have to register the first time to access it, but if you are interested it is well worth it. You can enter up to twenty medications, and from my cursory look you can enter supplements, prescription medications, vitamins, over-the-counter medications, and herbs. However, keep in mind, this tool is not meant to be a substitute for your doctor or pharmacist’s advice. Once you have a list of your loved one’s medications, you should keep it up-to-date and then take it with you each time you visit the doctor.

Sometimes elderly patients get confused about when, how much, or how often to take something. It could be directly related to the medications they are taking, it could be because of mental confusion, or it could be because their eye prescription is out of date. If a person can’t read, how can they be expected to take their medications correctly? So, not only do you want to rule out physical problems and medications but also ensure eye prescriptions are current.

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