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Depression common after hospitalization.

Family members who take an elderly person home from the hospital should be alert for several common warning signs that their older relative may have a psychological problem to deal with, suggests Stanford University Medical Center psychiatrist Javaid Sheikh. Nationally, almost half of all elderly people who are hospitalized for a major medical problem have some evidence of depression. Being more isolated than normal and under extra stress can contribute to the likelihood that they will become depressed during or immediately following a hospital stay, even if their physical condition has been corrected.

Losing interest in things that formerly gave pleasure, followed by withdrawal into themselves, is a typical sign of trouble. "Complaining of vague pains and aches much more than they would normally and complaining of lack of energy are also signs that should alarm the family and friends that there might be a problem."

Older people often have problems related to sleep and appetite even when there's not any psychological cause, but big changes in their sleeping and eating patterns could be signs of depression. In addition, comments such as "Life's just not worth living anymore" or "I wish I were dead" are definitely warning signs.

How can friends and relatives help? "Try to understand whether the depression is related to something that has recently happened or is it an ongoing situation that only is becoming obvious because of the stress of the hospitalization?" Sheikh indicates. If the person simply is lonely because of a lack of social interaction, a good thing to do is encourage him or her to get more involved in life and perhaps go to a senior center or seniors group. If the depression is more severe or persists, psychiatric consultation may be necessary.
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Title Annotation:depression in the elderly
Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Date:Oct 1, 1993
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