ARTICLES / General /
Let There Be Light /
Erika Hoffman, Staff Writer
“Just Do It!” admonishes the Nike ad.
“God helps those who help themselves”
goes the old saw.
“Carpe diem” is a philosophy everyone
needs to buy into, including the depressed
Of course, depression can strike any age
group, any ethnic category, and any
social–economic strata, but there is a multitude
of reasons why the elderly are
disproportionately afflicted nowadays.
No doubt exists that a family history of the
disorder predisposes some elderly to the
disease. Yet, without that genetic tie, the
elderly can still be candidates for depression
due to several other factors: widowhood, social
seclusion, other diseases, interaction of
medications, a negative perception of body
image, fear of dying, chronic pain, and
self-medication with alcohol or drugs.
Because of outdated stigmas, misguided notions
of family members, or treatment expense, many
seniors suffer their feelings of hopelessness
and helplessness in silence. They resign themselves to being blue and
don’t seek medical intervention.
The sad shame of this situation is that proven
medical help is available for the elderly. Screening devices easily administered in
a variety of medical offices, even optometrist
offices, can identify quickly, painlessly, and
effortlessly those in need of anti–depressants. Once the diagnosis is determined, a
caregiver can ensure follow-up treatment.
There is “light” at the end of the tunnel in
Baltimore! Project LIGHT was created at Levindale
Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital in
Baltimore, Maryland to screen the elderly for
depression. LIGHT is an acronym for a four step
process. First, the patient Learns about
depression; the patient is Inspired to seek
help; the patient is Given Hope; and the last
step is Treatment.
In this program, a psychiatric registered
nurse visits primary care physicians where she
conducts tests for depression on site. Therefore, patients and their caregivers
need not make separate trips to psychiatric
offices. Their emotional status can be quickly
assessed in the comfortable and familiar setting
of their family doctor’s office.
Ms. Poklemba, a clinical nurse specialist at
Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center and Hospital
in Baltimore, realizes that building relations
with primary care physicians to help screen for
depression in elderly patients can significantly
reduce patients’ risk for suicide. She cited the alarming statistic that 20
percent of all suicide deaths are in people over
65. Unfortunately, those folks rarely exhibit
any outward sign of their intentions.