Sunday, April 15, 2012

Brunei - Depression in elderly may lead to health deterioration

EARLY symptoms of behaviour such as depression in the elderly are often ignored by senior citizens over 65 years old as they are dismissed and considered as "normal behaviour" that requires no need for medical consultation.

According to Geriatric Specialist at Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Saleha (RIPAS) Hospital Dr Ang Sik Kim in an interview with The Brunei Times, said that these symptoms need immediate attention and that this could be very "atypical" syndrome in old age.

He said that depression was not only limited to the elderly feeling sad, but they also end up losing sleep, not eating and do not have a general healthy well-being of doing their daily routines.

Asked where the depression stems from, he said that the answer could be multifactoral.

"Sometimes it could be a personal issue, they (the elderly) might have a feeling of losing independence, family issues and not be as active as they used to be," he said.

"That is why in caring for the elderly, you must focus on one thing and that is to think outside the box and intervene from different directions."

Depression is not the only factor that could disrupt the health being of an elderly, said Dr Ang, as he named another few factors common in the Bruneian elder.

"In Brunei, some senior citizens can be sensitive and private and don't want to share information with the physician,"he said.

Another factor was memory loss, said that specialist, which could indicate a form of some sort of dementia.

Incontinence was also another issue suffered by some elderly patients.

"Being incontinent is not being able to control the process of urination, and this itself can sometimes be alarming because this might lead to them wanting to stay at home all the time and not come out of the house,"he said.

Falls, were also another factor that could be the cause of an elderly's deteriorating health, as they incur a loss of independence.

"Globally the ageing population is increasing and our very own population is starting to grow old and the life expectancy is increasing, so I think as we live longer potential diseases maybe detected," he said.

What causes cancer is still a mystery at this stage, he said, adding that sometimes you know what the causes for cancer are, whether they are hereditary or not.

"But we do know that there are some risk factors like smoking and leading an unhealthy lifestyle can contribute to it (cancer)."

Obesity was associated with cancer, but not a cause, causing a lot of malignancy in mostly females, the doctor explained.

"I think issues such as obesity can be prevented and are modifiable risk factors, but if a person has a family history of cancer, you can't really do much about that," said Dr Ang.

The ministry will continue with their activities that are centred around encouraging the elderly to adopt healthy eating habis, increase physical exercise and generally leading a healthy life.

"Because non-communicable diseases are preventable and can be avoided," he said.

Asked what other activities the ministry had plans for elderly care for the rest of the year, he said that he hoped the launch of World Health Day 2012 would become a platform for all agencies to see what can be done for the care of the elderly.

The Brunei Times

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