There are a variety of physical conditions that we equate with aging: arthritis, cataracts, a general slowing down of gait and increase in frailty. And while these can be common in older adults, there’s another condition that’s just as prevalent but less often discussed: mental health concerns.
For a variety of reasons, mental health issues can be exacerbated in our later years. Seniors who have outlived friends and family members face issues from grief, loss and loneliness, putting them at risk for depression. And although they are common, mental health issues are NOT a normal part of aging, and it’s crucial to seek treatment as soon as concerns arise. Nightingale Homecare offers these tips to help better understand – and improve – mental health in older adults:
- Mental health is no less important than physical health. In fact, the two are often related, as poor mental health can lead to physical ailments, reduced quality of life and functioning, substance abuse, and a higher risk for early death. It can even make pre-existing physical illnesses worse.
- All seniors are at risk for mental health problems. Your senior loved one may have always been carefree, calm, and content, but, later in life, experience a deterioration in mental health as a result of a physical condition such as a stroke, cancer or diabetes, medication side effects, or other triggers.
- Seniors are at higher risk for suicide. The two age groups with the highest suicide rates are, surprisingly, those 85 or older and those age 75 – 84. And, their attempts are more likely to result in death than those who are younger.
- Correct diagnosis is crucial. Although depression in older adults is far from uncommon, it’s misdiagnosed in a full half of seniors who seek medical attention. And of those who are properly diagnosed, only half will receive treatment from the doctor. Be an advocate for your senior loved one to ensure he or she gets the care so critically needed.
- Help is available! Seniors should not suffer in silence. Help your older loved ones know that it’s OK to share their feelings, and that you’ll help them receive the help that can improve quality of life. And once diagnosed and treated, continue to support your senior loved one through encouraging activities to foster mental and physical health: take walks, engage in favorite hobbies and pastimes, and spend quality time simply talking together.
Nightingale Homecare of Phoenix offers a unique program aimed at improving senior mental health: our Transitions Mental Health & Safety program. With a full team of nurses, social workers, and therapists, we put together a plan of care to help older adults fully enjoy their golden years. Contact us to learn more!