Marteny: Taking charge of our own lives

There are many causes for depression in a senior.

There are many causes for depression in a senior.

It is sad to see seniors dealing with loneliness and depression.

I spoke recently with Dr. Garrett Swetlikoff, the past president of the B.C. Naturopathic Association, about seniors and depression.

He is the medical director of the Kelowna Naturopathic Clinic and is a strong believer in science-based holistic health care.

Swetlikoff posed this premise to me: When children fall and hurt themselves; their mothers will put a bandage on the wounds and then hug and kiss the children. The children are then smiling and on their way again. Which was the healing point? The bandage or the hug and kiss?

Depression is a symptom, he suggests, as it is a holistic problem that needs a holistic solution.

It could be due to brain chemistry but it also might be due to other factors such as the lack of a support system. Perhaps a spouse has died.

Maybe they are not eating properly or exercising. Seniors need to remain active, have an interest in their lives and find their inner child.

We are all just older children.

To discover the source of the depression, seniors need to be heard and someone needs to take the time to hear them. Our current medical system does not allow for this.

Loneliness is a major cause of depression as seniors become prisoners in their homes.

They need to stop looking out the window or watching television and get active. They only need to make one friend to experience enjoyment again.

Their nutrition habits also need to be examined. Are they even eating? Are they capable of preparing meals? Is medication upsetting their stomachs causing them to not want to eat?

They must be eating properly for medication to work effectively.

What about medication? Is the senior over-medicated? Are all of the doctors aware of all of the medication the seniors are taking? Is a medication or a combination of medications causing tiredness?

Have the fears of the seniors been discussed? Many have a fear of death. Or dying with pain. Or being alone when they die.

Some have financial fears. Seniors should be encouraged to discuss their fears with someone they trust.

The fears might not go away but at least they have been able to share them.

Is there a situation from the past that the seniors have not dealt withfamily abuse? Abortion? Divorce? Anger towards someone or themselves?  Is there a secret that needs to be told?

If seniors can speak about their situations without judgment, perhaps those situations can be resolved.

If some of the above questions are asked of the senior, perhaps some of the depression can be lifted.

Many families have tried to get seniors involved with activities, but if they refuse there comes a point there is nothing more that families can do.

Ultimately, it is the seniors who have to make the change. They have to want to change.

They need to realize that they have more power than they think and they have to take it back.

They need to stop worrying about upsetting their families or doctors.

Sharen Marteny is a services consultant for seniors in Kelowna.



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