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Alternate Reasons Antidepressants Might Be Prescribed for a Senior

Approximately 7 million Americans over the age of 65 experience some form of depression. Depending on the severity of the depression, doctors often prescribe antidepressants to help alleviate the symptoms. However, depression is not the only reason a doctor might prescribe antidepressants for your elderly loved one. The Anchorage elderly care experts at Home Care Assistance have put together a list of other possible uses researchers have discovered for antidepressant medication.

Helping a Senior Quit Smoking

If your loved one smokes, quitting can boost his or her health and reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and age-related macular degeneration. Certain antidepressants may be able to help your loved one quit smoking. Zyban or Wellbutrin (bupropion) have been found to interfere with nicotine’s ability to manipulate dopamine levels in the brain. This reduces the adrenaline surge that normally comes with this manipulation and can help smokers quit easier.

Providing Pain Relief

Though it can take weeks to months for them to work, antidepressants have been found to bring pain relief when taken on a regular basis. They don’t stop every type of pain, but antidepressants may be able to help seniors who have:

  • Nerve pain from diabetic neuropathy

  • Arthritis

  • Nerve damage from shingles

  • Fibromyalgia

  • Tension headaches

Researchers believe antidepressants increase the neurotransmitters in the spinal cord, which work to reduce pain signals to the brain. Tricyclic antidepressants are the most common type used for pain relief.

Alleviating Sleep Disorders

Many seniors experience insomnia or other sleep disorders. Researchers discovered that, over the past two decades, doctors have prescribed antidepressants more than sleep aids for insomnia. Antidepressants have been found to help insomnia because they block the reabsorption of serotonin, a key chemical in the brain that is necessary for sleep. When serotonin isn’t reabsorbed, it leaves more in the brain, which can help your loved one fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.

Relieving Irritable Bowel Syndrome

If your loved one has irritable bowel syndrome, he or she may experience abdominal pain, constipation, and diarrhea on a regular basis. However, certain antidepressants may be able to help alleviate these symptoms. A 2003 study published in Gastroenterology found people who took tricyclic antidepressants experienced greater relief from their irritable bowel syndrome symptoms than those who took a placebo.

If your loved one has been prescribed an antidepressant or other medication to manage a specific health condition, it’s important for him or her to take them as instructed. At Home Care Assistance, our caregivers can provide timely medication reminders to ensure your loved one remains safe and healthy. In addition, our caregivers can provide emotional support, social stimulation, and assistance with many different daily tasks, and we also offer specialized Parkinson’s, stroke, and Alzheimer’s care for Anchorage seniors. For more information on our in-home care services, call one of our experienced Care Managers at (907) 770-0907 to schedule a free consultation.