HJNO Jan/Feb 2021

44 JAN / FEB 2021 I  HEALTHCARE JOURNAL OF NEW ORLEANS COLUMN  SENIOR HEALTH Grief vs. Depression in Seniors: What’s Really Going On? ALTHOUGH change and loss can be very painful, they are a natural part of our lives as humans. As individuals age, one of the most common changes they face is loss. Whether it’s loss of our work, loved ones, independence or our health, we are des- tined to grieve at some point. It’s important to remember that grieving is a normal and healthy response to these transitions and changes. Although it can be difficult, there is incredible value in facing and working through these emotions. Regan Forrester, LCSW, CSW-G, at Lambeth House, points out, “individuals must give themselves permission to grieve and not worry about others’ timelines for this process. Loss of spouses, loss of the opportunity to expe- rience intimate relationships and trying to reconstruct what life will look like going for- ward are all tremendously difficult thoughts to process during a time of grief.” It is extremely important to understand the differences between grief and depression in the senior population.Although both grief and depression are often treated similarly, the course of action is not the same for both. If an individual is experiencing both grief and depression simultaneously, it needs to It can often be difficult to distinguish between grief and depression in an individual. This distinction is often more difficult when working with seniors, given that there are typically many other changes taking place at the time of diagnosis. Living in an ageist society stimulates anxiety around the natural process of growing older. This, coupled with the challenges and changes that come with growing older, can make grief and depression in seniors hard to separate. be addressed in treatment, and this can only occur if they are properly identified. Many believe that becoming sad as we age is just a part of life. It’s easy to overlook depression or see it as a normal occurrence. But, the truth is that depression is as much of a disease as diabetes and can be treated if properly diagnosed. Our bodies’natural pro- duction of “happy”neurotransmitters, such as norepinephrine, serotonin and dopamine, decreases as we age. When produced at the right levels, these neurotransmitters help us feel good emotionally and physically, but as we age, their levels drop.