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Treatment options for depression in the elderly

Depression is often treated with antidepressants. Doctors usually select the lowest effective dose of an antidepressant medication which is most suitable for a particular patient.

Those patients who do not respond to antidepressant therapy or can not tolerate these medications or those at high risk of suicide, may benefit from other forms of treatment like electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).

Non-medical approaches to treat depression include counselling and psychotherapy.

Tips to cope with elderly depression

  • Widen social support structure

  • Join a senior citizens’ group or participate in organised senior activities. It can help to alleviate feelings of isolation.

  • Start exercising

  • Engage in gentle physical exercises to relieve symptoms of depression (e.g. walking, yoga, tai chi). Physical activity releases endorphins which are feel-good chemicals produced by the brain. Group exercise programs prevent social isolation, improve depressed mood and prevent functional decline.

  • Talk to someone

  • Pick up the phone and have a chat with a friend or see a counsellor. By connecting with others, the elderly are less likely to feel lonely and isolated.

  • Take care of a pet

  • A pet can provide great companionship for the elderly.

  • Get out of the house

  • A dose of sunshine can brighten the mood of an elderly person suffering from depression. Su​ggest outings or let natural light into the house.

“Do not ignore changes in mood or behaviour in your elderly parents. Watch out for signs of depression and don’t hesitate to get help. If you’re a senior, do let your doctor know about your emotional health,” says Dr Kaysar ​​​Mamun​, Senior Consultant at the Department of Geriatric Medicine, Singapore General Hospital (SGH), a member of the Si​​ngHealth group. ​


Ref. T12​