Chances are, at some point, you or someone you know will encounter a friend or family member who is a senior and struggling with or exhibiting signs of depression. This is an illness that is not uncommon at any age, and with one to two percent of seniors diagnosed as depressed (per the author), this age group is no exception. Based on thirteen years of experience working with geriatric patients at the Stress Relief and Memory Training Center, Conquering Depression in the Golden Years, by Valentin Bragin, M.D., PhD, is an answer to fighting and conquering depression in elderly individuals. Readers will find a wealth of information regarding depression and a solid strategy specifically designed for seniors who are interested in overcoming this illness.
In recent literature regarding depression, it is often discussed either as a purely “chemical” disease or one that involves the entire body. Bragin is a huge proponent of the latter and promotes a decidedly holistic approach in treatment. He urges readers to understand the ways in which this illness can affect the entire body and provides comprehensive methods for treating symptoms:
Many of our patients using the program quickly alleviate the symptoms of depression and begin feeling better. Our system goes well beyond prescribing medications and providing psychotherapy. The program features relaxation training, physical exercises, attention and memory training, diet recommendations and much more.
Conquering Depression in the Golden Years begins with a discussion of the ways that depression can manifest itself in seniors. Bragin describes symptoms in a thorough and easy-to-read manner. This section also stresses the fact that depression is closely tied to other ailments common to geriatric patients such as high blood pressure, cancer, diabetes, cardiac problems and Alzheimer’s and explains how these problems can exacerbate depression and vice versa.
Bragin then moves to an explanation of depression and the brain by highlighting ways in which depression can affect thought, behavior, emotion, cognition and the senses. The book finishes with detailed instructions for exercises to be completed at home that include ways to promote stress management, sensory activation, physical exercise, cognitive training and even ways to improve digestion.
I appreciate the author’s frankness when he explains that depressed people largely are responsible for their own course of treatment:
Every depressed patient has to take a proactive approach to battling depression, 24/7. In other words, your participation is critical to your recovery.
The author never claims this to be a self-help book but stresses that many factors, including his program, contribute to overcoming depression. It is a many-faced disease and requires adherence to your doctor’s treatment plan that could include taking medications or vitamins, psychotherapy, as well as the various exercises described above. Through the author’s own experience and practice he has found that medications coupled with nonpharmacological interventions have proven successful in the vast majority of his patients.
It’s a seriously flawed plan for a depressed individual to rely on medication treatment only. Being a strong believer in the body’s natural healing capacity, I recommend using everything possible to increase the body’s natural restoration power and reserves. To win the fight against depression, both the brain and the body should be in sync, fully mobilized. I call this integrative treatment of depression “the battle for life.”
While the information in this book is a great resource for seniors or those who are interested in helping seniors overcome depression, it is important to note that the exercises in the books are designed for those readers who not only suffer from depression, but who spend their time mostly at home and are unable to visit a gym or participate in other high-energy activities.
With that being said, if this book set out to educate the reader on the many aspects of depression as well as to provide an encouraging platform for hope that depression overcome, it has done its job. The solid suggestions and recommendations for treatment that Bragin provides only contribute to the fact that I would be quick to recommend Conquering Depression in the Golden Years to any senior, caregiver or health professional in my life who I felt could benefit from his insight and advice.
Conquering Depression in the Golden Years (A Practical Guide for Older Adults)
By Valentin Bragin, M.D., PhD
Langdon Street Press: January 2009
Paperback, 180 pages