Aging Well with Dr. Dan Blazer, Part 6: Holistic Mental Health @TheHighCalling

Aging Well

When my son first began exhibiting symptoms of anxiety and depression as a sophomore in high school, my husband and I both worked at a California mega-church whose leaders openly preached against psychiatry and psychology.

The message reached a wide audience— from the pulpit, over radio, through books, and at conferences—thus cementing in place a culture in which getting professional help for mental and emotional suffering was discouraged and stigmatized.

This was a new phenomenon for us, one that may have delayed our son getting the help he needed. After I heard about the third suicide of a young Christian that I knew back home in New Jersey, however, I no longer cared what my church community thought. I knew my son needed help and was determined to get it for him.

Nonetheless, I was concerned that the mental health practitioners who treated him would respect his tender faith and the spiritual dimension of his suffering, some of which was directly related to our family’s decision to respond to a vocational ministry calling with a cross-country move and to the culture of the church where that calling was initially lived out. …

Read the whole article at TheHighCalling.org.

Aging Well with Dr. Dan Blazer, Part 5: Social Supports & Storytelling @TheHighCalling

Aging Well

Stories help us make sense of the world. True stories told by our elderly relatives help us understand ourselves, and the telling also helps the storytellers make sense of their lives, says Laity Leadership Institute Senior Fellow Dan Blazer, M.D.

“One of the most critical things a family can do is to try to recognize the value of an older person, and one of the best ways to do that is to get the older person to talk about himself or herself, or maybe write about himself or herself. Then actually pay attention to what they write,” Blazer said when The High Calling talked to him recently. …

Read the whole article at TheHighCalling.org.

Aging Well with Dr. Dan Blazer, Part 4: Geriatric Depression @TheHighCalling

Aging Well

Depression causes more disability than any other psychiatric disorder,” Laity Leadership Institute senior fellow Dan Blazer, M.D. said his 2005 book The Age of Melancholy: Major Depression and Its Social Origins.  In fact, depression is as disabling or more disabling than diabetes and hypertension, he said, and the World Health Organization estimated that it will be the second leading contributor to the “global burden of disease” by 2025.

Although those born in the later part of the 20th century suffer higher rates of depression than those born earlier, roughly 15 percent of the elderly experience significant symptoms.

A Crossword Puzzle Case Study

When The High Calling interviewed Dr. Blazer last fall, he talked about a patient who is close to 90 years old. The man had called Blazer a few weeks earlier to say he was feeling “terrible,” that he wasn’t sleeping and was losing weight, all of which are symptoms of depression.

The patient also said, “I’m not doing my crossword puzzles.”

“He had been doing crossword puzzles for 80 years,” said Blazer. “All of a sudden he wasn’t doing them. That signals loss of interest, which is another symptom of depression.”

Blazer prescribed medication. When he talked to the patient a few weeks later, he said he was feeling much better.

Blazer asked, “Are you doing your crossword puzzles yet?”

“No,” he replied.

The doctor knew then that the man wasn’t well yet …

Read the whole article at The High Calling.

Aging Well with Dr. Dan Blazer, Part 3: The Role of Perception in Geriatric Health @TheHighCalling

Aging Well

Proverbs 23:7 says, “As [a man] thinks in his heart, so is he” (NKJV). When it comes to geriatric health, this statement has repeatedly proven true.

“Self-perceptions of older adults about their health and well-being may be at least as important as objective data for predicting the course of their health over time,” Laity Leadership Institute Senior Fellow Dan Blazer, M.D. wrote in a 2008 article that was published in The Geriatrist.

“Most clinicians treating adults focus on facts: facts about the behaviors of their patients (eg. the number of times a patient gets up at night to use the bathroom), facts about their physiological function (eg. lab values), and facts about their daily function ( eg. activities of daily living). Nevertheless, research has shown over the years that the perceptions of older adults about their health and well-being may be at least as important as facts,” he explained. …

Read the whole article at The High Calling.

Aging Well with Dr. Dan Blazer, Part 2: Successful Aging @TheHighCalling

Aging Well

In his 2002 book, Depression in Late Life, Laity Leadership Institute Senior Fellow Dan Blazer, M.D. retells a story from the life of Siddhārtha, who would come to be known as the Supreme Buddha. The young prince left his palace one day and came across a “tottering, wrinkled, white-haired, decrepit old man who was bent over, trembling, and mumbling something incomprensible while he tottered along, balanced by a stick he used for a cane.” Seeing this sight, Siddhārtha is said have told his chariot driver, “It’s the world’s pity, that weak and ignorant beings, drunk with the vanity of youth, do not behold old age. Let us hurry back to the palace. What is the use of pleasures in life, since I myself am the future dwelling-place of old age?”

The perception of old age as a depressing season of life, however, is not confirmed in scientific studies of the elderly, Blazer concluded. …

Read the whole article at The High Calling.