As our friends and family age, as well as ourselves, we go through many changes, both physical and mental. Many people assume that these are just a natural part of aging, but issues, particularly mental health problems, need to be addressed to allow the elderly to live out their retirement safely and happily. It is particularly difficult to see loved ones deteriorate physically, but their mental health should also be a priority. If you’re concerned about the happiness of your elderly family, or want to stay prepared as you age, keep in mind these main points.
Stimulation is important
As people deteriorate physically, they tend to become scared to do the things they previously enjoyed, for fear of falling over and causing themselves harm, or lacking the stamina to enjoy activities to the same extent. This drop in stimulation can cause depression and even worsen the effects of dementia. It’s important that they continue to do the things they enjoy, albeit with a bit of adaptation. Crosswords and puzzles, singing songs, arts and crafts, and doing yard work are all great ways to keep brains engaged, even throughout the aging process.
Company is key
Loneliness is a major cause of mental health problems in elderly people. As their friends and close family pass away or move to other areas, seniors can start to become very isolated. A regular meal with others, opportunities for a good giggle, and the odd game of cards or dominoes are great ways to maintain stimulation, but also to avoid feelings of loneliness. If you’re unable to visit your elderly relative regularly, encourage them to find local groups, or even look into companion care, so they always have a friend nearby.
Watch out for warning signs
It is easy to write off signs of mental health problems in seniors as a side-effect of the aging process, but in actuality, they’re problems which need addressing. The warning signs are much the same as in younger adults – alcohol abuse, lethargy, and anxiety are among the most common. It’s important to keep in mind that seniors are more likely to experience these as a result of bereavement, illness, or isolation, so regular mental health support is a must.
Keep the professionals involved
Not only should seniors be in regular contact with their physician, but it’s also useful to ensure a close relationship with a psychotherapist who specializes in elderly care. This is particularly important if an illness is causing them to become more isolated, or they’ve recently experienced the loss of a loved one. A psychotherapist will be able to keep an eye on changes in mental health which are outside the norms of aging and ensure they get the medication and treatment they require. They will also be able to work in conjunction with their physician to ensure that the medications the senior person requires do not cause problems with their mental health medication, and vice versa – a problem more prevalent in older people on various types of treatment at once.
Mental health in older adults is too often overlooked as a normal part of aging, but people become particularly susceptible to problems as they age. Company, a good doctor, and activities which they enjoy can all help to combat elderly depression, and other mental health problems.