Elderly women in La. among the country’s most depressed following pandemic

The French Quarter is a place where people come to enjoy themselves with their friends and loved ones. Something they couldn't do a year ago.
Published: Jul. 12, 2021 at 2:25 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The French Quarter is a place where people come to enjoy themselves with their friends and loved ones. Something they couldn’t do a year ago. The city and the country are showing signs of normalcy, but the deep scars of the pandemic have left a toll on everyone’s mental health.

Elderly people in Louisiana have a higher percentage of depression compared to the country, according to data from the American Health Rankings.

“Lack of interaction with other human beings who care about you, who talk to you, leads to depression. The feelings of isolation and unfortunately in our society when people get older, a lot of times that support isn’t there” said Dr. Eric Griggs.

Dr. Griggs works as a health educator in New Orleans and he says depression is often caused by not talking and acknowledging it.

“If you’re feeling sad or down, if you are grieving at six months you’re gonna grieve. It’s natural to feel these things and you gotta let it out,” he says.

Lifestyle changes such as little interaction, anxiety over healthcare, poverty, and shifting to a dependent lifestyle are just some ways the elderly can become depressed or fuel their depression further.

“Some of those can provide a lot of social activities but certainly there’s a lot of depression of being self-sufficient, the loss of your home. Connected to that as well another life event is really a change in your freedom in finances,” says Betty Tedesco. Tedesco and Shannon Williams are part of the New Orleans Affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Health, NAMI for short.

Tedesco says another contributing factor in depression and the elderly are biological issues such as dementia and can be hard to diagnose because of the similarities.

“Depression often looks like cognitive problems. Looks like Dementia and in fact, it takes a good evaluation to understand the difference and to treat the depression so that demented issues are relieved,” said Tedesco.

But the numbers show one group, in particular, has a higher percentage of depression, elderly women.

“It’s women who used to be the matriarchs of their family,” said Dr. Griggs. “They’re not visited or no one spends time or no one talks to them anymore. And as you get older, the people around you, close to you, start to pass away.”

“Women are living longer than men. Women having pressured life events that can cause depression and cognitive issues certainly skewed those statistics much higher,” Tedesco said.

Mixed with a year of extreme isolation, very little interaction, and a virus attacking nursing homes, the depression worsened.

“The amount of separation, not even having community meals, people had to be isolated in their own rooms,” Tedesco said. “So, the amount of risk of depression from pandemic related conditions certainly took its toll on particularly the elderly.”

With vaccines rolling into arms and the country beginning to open up again, health professionals are advocating for people to return to their normal routines safely to lower chances of depression.

“If someone has physical or cognitive decline as many people who are elderly will experience those activities they experience may no longer be possible but that doesn’t mean they won’t experience new activities, new love, new hobbies,” Williams said.

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