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Mood and Cognitive Disorders of the Elderly

The changes that occur as we age are broad in scope affecting every aspect of our lives and our functioning.  

Physical - Physical decline occurs in a slow, progressive, often subtle manner.  Chronic medical conditions appear and may follow a progressively deteriorating path.  Acute medical conditions have more of an impact as our physical systems weaken.  Our bodies are less robust and recovery from any physical condition is a longer and more difficult process. 


Cognitive - Cognitive changes may be of a slowly progressive nature or a more sudden onset.  All of these define the neurological changes of aging.  A broad spectrum of symptoms include memory loss, impaired concentration, attention deficits, changes in consciousness and awareness, confusion and impairment of critical thinking may appear.


Emotional - Changes in the expression of emotions may present as impulsivity, explosiveness, emotional instability or the opposites including blunted affect or limited range of emotions.  More severe symptoms reflect onset of dementia.  Personality changes may be occurring.  


Social - Socially our world contracts and there is less opportunity for social/interpersonal contacts.  A unique type of loneliness occurs as there are fewer same-age peers with whom we can share our histories, memories and experiences.  A world that was once common to all begins to wane and slowly disappear.  For example, the music of an older generation is no longer played.  TV shows, radio programs, entertainers, world events, products - all of the things that defined the "world" of a generation slowly disappear.  The losses include not only people or even things but of how all of that defines our lives.

Environmental - Events such as the loss of a home, or change of residence, changes in employment, loss of "freedom and independence" such as when one is no longer able to drive or the  lessened amount of activities that we are able to participate in create an upheaval that becomes harder to manage or may cause further withdrawal.  As time passes, the world becomes progressively less familiar and progressively harder to adjust to.

Navigating this stage of life can be difficult.  Psychotherapy that can address any and all of these issues can be of immeasurable benefit, and interventions designed to address every aspect and every level of problem can result in significant positive changes.  Rather than experiencing this stage of life as increasingly more difficult and disheartening, it can be enjoyed, embraced and lived with honor, dignity and a smile.

Of equal importance are the struggles that family and friends have with the aging relative.  There can be such emotional turmoil in watching this process and not understanding how best to manage it.  Anger, guilt, regret, confusion are but a few of the feelings that arise.  Therapy during this time can not only help with resolving these struggles but also allow for more intimacy and peace with a loved one.  

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