My doctor wants me to take an antidepressant to help me sleep and improve my appetite. What questions should I ask?
— Almost Happy
Dearie: I know a lot of people on antidepressants. What’s going on in the world? Maybe it’s just life as you get old. I think doctors are too quick to prescribe medicines.
Barbara: I see a lot of people who get overwhelmed with one sadness after another – losing friends and spouses, having to move, losing your physical abilities and not being able to do all the things you used to do. That’s a lot to feel sad about and get depressed. And doctors don’t always know what to do. It’s easy to prescribe a pill rather than sit and talk about sadness and loneliness. But this lady is saying something about sleep and appetite. You know, Mama, you have a terrible sleep problem!
Dearie: Yes, but I get by. I don’t want to take medicine for that. Though you know, I’m constantly being told to practice “sleep hygiene.” What do you think of that new-fangled word?
Barbara: I know, it’s a little weird—it sounds more like dental hygiene than anything to do with going to sleep. But it’s just a new way to talk about having good routines and getting in the practice of doing some relaxing things before you go to bed.
Dearie: My problem is that I get started reading and I can’t put my book down. I just get so excited! But then I sleep too late in the morning. Or sometimes I worry too much about one thing or another.
Barbara: You’ve said that often and then the rest of the day gets a little bollixed up. Wouldn’t it be worth trying some relaxation techniques? It might help with the worry too!
Dearie: Yes, I suppose. Much better than any medications. But what about this question of eating? You know, I’m lucky. I still can prepare my own meals, and I really like that. I love to tell you about my shopping expeditions and you always ask what I cooked for dinner. But it’s just me, so sometimes I feel like it’s not worth the bother. The building I live in, though, it’s pretty wonderful—we have several meals a week when I can be with other people.
Barbara: Almost Happy may be living alone and it may be hard to get motivated to prepare meals for herself. But you’re right, Mama. It is good to spend time with other people around meals. That’s why so many senior centers have lunchtime meal programs. Getting involved in one of those could be a good solution. So what are we going to tell this lady?