Watch: Dr. Ruth Fernandes on Depression in Older Adults


Dr. Ruth Fernandes is an experienced psychiatrist and a consultant at Uro Care One Health Speciality Clinic and Motherhood in Pune. Her areas of specialization are stress related problems, depression, grief therapy and she loves working for women. HappyAging met Dr. Fernandes to talk about depression in Indian older adults, especially women.

Dr. Fernandes says that older adults are prone to depression because of isolation and neglect. Other issues that older adults face are grief due to the loss of a close one, dementia and other cognitive problems, and anxiety.

India is considered to be one of the most depressed countries in the world. 1 in 10 adults suffer from depression and 7% of the total older adult population are depressed. Dr. Fernandes says that depression in India is more prevalent because of the burgeoning population, lack of medical services (especially mental health services), stress due to population, poverty, pollution, noise hazards, and other economic issues.

Next, we talked about the obstacles that older adults face while seeking help for mental issues. Dr. Fernandes says that they need the motivation and courage to seek help. They need to make lifestyle changes and that needs will power. Apart from this, she says social stigma is a major deterrent for both older adults and professionals face while seeking and giving therapy for mental issues.

Dr. Fernandes says that exercise is a good way to alleviate depression and other mental issues in older adults. Exercise releases endorphins or “feel-good hormones” in the body that automatically improves your mood. Along with exercise, a balanced diet with foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids is good for older adults.

Dr. Fernandes says that both the family and society play a major role in the treatment of older adults with mental issues. Simple things like validating their feelings, seeing that they take their medicines on time and holding their hand in times of stress can go a long way in ensuring that older adults feel loved. The society can help by being more inclusive and by reducing the stigma attached to mental health issues.

Older adults, especially women, go through a lot of changes throughout their lifestyles like menarche, relocation after marriage, pregnancy and childbirth, and menopause. Parents also go through the Empty Nest Syndrome once their children leave home. Around that time, they go through retirement. They end up with lots of time on their hands and often find that they have nothing to do. Such times are difficult for older adults and very often they slip into depression.

We asked Dr. Fernandes about grief and bereavement. She says that grief is a very personal thing that can be alleviated by talking. By validating their feelings and allowing them to talk, their family can help older adults come out of bereavement easily. Support groups, though in nascent stages in India, plays a significant role in helping older adults discuss their mental issues and get relief from them.

Watch the video to see what Dr. Ruth Fernandes has to say about depression and therapy for older adults.

Also Watch: Dr. Pradnya Brahmankar on Challenges in Dementia Care-giving

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