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March 26, 2013     Cape Gazette
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March 26, 2013

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Cape Gazette HEALTH & FITNESS TUESDAY. MARCH 26- THURSDAY, MARCH 28 2013 21 Battling depression with compassionate companions[ "p " edia reports, often driv- en by pharmaceutical companies, would have the public believing there's an epidemic of clinical depression among virtually every popula- tion from children and teens to adults and seniors. While there's no denying that the number of people suffering from'depression is large and spans all ages, too many people with quite normal sadness brought on by grief, loneliness, or other situational issues are treated as if they have a perma- nent chemical imbalance. Although antidepressant medications can make a person feel better regardless of the cause, there are healthier alter- natives that both address the depression and help provide a much better overall quality of life. David Forman, president of Visiting Angels, a home care company that helps seniors maintain their independence at home, says, "The vast majority of seniors suffering from de- pression are those living alone. Companionship for even a few hours a day can be as effective as antidepressant medications  in helping someone through and beyond any period of pain and suffering." Forman agrees there's noth- ing wrong with the use of anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications for shorter-term treatment during periods of grief, but adding additional medication to a daily regimen of other medications is clearly not the best long-term solution. "There's an important dif- ference between simply living without anxiety and depression versus actually living with some amount of happiness, interest and joy," says Forman. "Medi- cations can mask our anxiety and pain, but they can't create new opportunities for a happier existence." His company, Visiting An- gels, provides compassionate caregivers who help seniors and disabled adults with all activi- ties of daily living such as per- sonal care, light housekeeping, meal.preparation, errands and transportation, and this helps people stay independent and safe at home. However, it's the companionship Forman says his caregivers provide that really adds to a person's joy in life. "Just a few hours a day, or even a few hours a week, can make all the difference to some- body living alone, especially those who had a spouse or other companions throughout their lives," says Forman. Studies confirm the common- sense notion that loneliness significantly raises the risk of loss of physical functioning and earlier-than-expected death. The New York Times re- cently published the details of a report from the Archives of Internal Medicine that showed over a period of six years, near- ly 25 percent of seniors feeling isolated and lonely experienced a significant decline in their ability to perform activities of daily living: to bathe, dress, eat, toilet and get up from a chair or a bed on their own. Lonely older adults also were 45 per- cent more likely to die within this period than those who felt meaningfully connected with others. Andrew Steptoe, director of the Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care at Univer- sity College, London, has been studying this subject and said, "There is growing evidence that both loneliness and social isolation are related to biologi- cal processes that may increase health risk, including changes in immune and inflammatory processes and disruption of the stress-related hormones." Another study from Cornell University on the physiologi- cal effects of loneliness showed that the blood:lressure of older people rises in reaction to some kinds of stress and that loneli- nessaccentuates this response. Forman says his employees are chosen not only for their ex- perience and skills, but also for their compassion and kindness. "We listen to families' needs and preferences and do our best to pair proper personality types, "he says. It is also important to note that medical conditions and prescription medications can cause depression. According to, an online health and lifestyle resource, an ill- ness may have depression as a symptom or be a psychological reaction to a chronic condi- tion, especially if it is painful, disabling or terminal. These include Parkinson's, stroke, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, thyroid disorders, vi- tamtn deficiencies, Alzheimer's, lupus and multiple sclerosis. Medications that can cause or worsen depression include blood pressure meds; beta blockers; sleeping pills, inclUd- Continued on page 23 DOCTORS" DAY Thank you for the long hours. Thank you for the dedication. Thank you for your skills. Thank you for your commitment. Thank you for the care you give. Thank you for your role in helping Beebe Medical Center achieve .the 2013 Healthgrades Distinguished Hospital Award for Clinical Excellence TM. Beebe is the only hospita on Delmarva to have received this award four years in a row (2010-2013). Join us in thanking our doctors on National Doctors" Day, March 30, 2013. Anesthesiology Bariatric Surgery Cardiology Cardiovascular Surgery Critical Care Medicine Colon/Rectal Surgery Dermatology Emergency Medicine Endocrinology Family Practice Gastroenterology B Beebe Medical Center Lewes, Del. ID General Surgery Hand Surgery Hospitalist Infectious Diseases Internal Medicine Medical Oncology/ Hematology Nephrology Neurological Surgery Neurology Neurosurgery Obstetrics/ Gynecology Ophthalmology Oral/Maxillofacial Surgery Orthopaedics Otolaryngology Pain Management Pathology Pediatrics Plastic Surgery Podiatry VI$ Pulmonary Medicine Radiation Oncology Radiology/ Diagnostic Imaging Rheumatology Sleep Medicine Surgical Oncology Thoracic/Vascular Surgery Urology PHYSICIAN?