A Practical Guide for Mental Health for Seniors

It is no one’s fault that mental illnesses are on the rise in today’s society.

These mental conditions are experienced after a build-up of multiple sequential events such as the environment one grew up in, traumatic life events, genetics, and lifestyle influence.

Mental health helps in how we relate to one another, our daily lives, and our physical health. It also affects how we make choices, handle daily life stresses. When one is mentally ill, their thinking, behavior, and mood are affected.

Most of these mental health illnesses in seniors originate from memory loss, loneliness, isolation, vulnerability, or physiological stress.

Mental health research conducted by the Centers for Disease Control estimates that 20% of seniors experience some mental illness. If these mental conditions are not treated early enough, they could lead to more complications in managing and treating other health problems.

Mental Illness Early Warning Signs to Look Out for In Seniors

We must move past the misconception that mental illness is a natural part of aging. On the contrary, mental illnesses are more prevalent amongst young adults than old adults. The only difference is that seniors are less likely to seek help.

There are no detailed scans or tests that indicate that a person has a mental illness. This is why top advocates for home care for seniors encourage you to familiarize yourself with the warning signs of mental illness amongst older adults. Here are some of them:

1. Sudden and Change in Sleeping Patterns and Fatigue

A change in sleeping patterns is usually the first noticeable sign of depression. These changes later result in fatigue or a mental cloud throughout the day. Be on the alert and ask all the relevant questions to understand why these changes are happening.

2. Memory Problems

Most people tend to ignore memory loss since they consider it a natural part of aging. However, some episodes may seem excessive, and they may need early medical attention before they advance significantly.

One of the most common memory loss problems which need immediate attention is Alzheimer’s. It is a memory loss condition that causes brain cells’ slow death, leading to further memory loss, thinking, and behavior.

Some of the common symptoms of identifying severe memory loss problems are:

  • Difficulty identifying old family members or new ones
  • Difficulty remembering appointments, events, or flowing in conversations
  • Frequently misplacing belongings

Identifying the cause of this will help in identifying the best treatment plan.

3. Frequent Agitation or Moodiness

These can indicate a possible mental illness. Irritability may be a result of pain from chronic conditions. You will often not notice a quick shift in confidence to confusion or from carefree to anxious pretty fast with the moods. Continuous moods and agitation episodes may eventually form a new personality that is not likable to many.

4. Unusual Changes in Personal Care

Noticeable changes in personal care routines are an early sign of trouble. The most common sign that may signify mental illness is skipping baths. These seniors will often resist help to prevent you from knowing their living conditions.

5. Social Withdrawal

Loss of interest in things that used to excite you before could be a sign of mental illness. It is more evidently seen when one loses interest in participating in social engagements. Seniors who have mental illness will more likely be socially withdrawn, and it also difficult for them to form new functional friendships.

6. Loss of Appetite, Digestive Issues, and Weight Loss

All these go hand in hand. A person’s digestive system exposes their mental state. If senior experiences any of these issues leading to a significant outward weight loss, this could be a sign that they have a mental illness.

With this in mind, you can explore all the necessary treatment measures for a senior suffering from mental illness.

Helping Seniors Deal with Mental Illness

Mental illness can be temporal or long-term conditions requiring long-term treatment. This is why discovering these symptoms early enough can help you deal with the symptoms themselves rather than the disorder affecting them. Here are ways in which you can help seniors to overcome mental illness:

1. Hold That Conversation On Hiring A Caregiver

Accepting long-term care for a senior can be very difficult. For most, it mostly feels like they are losing their independence.

As a close relative, the responsibility of holding such tough conversations without upsetting them is placed in your hands. Here are tips that will help you approach this tough conversation:

  • Ensure they’ve taken their medication to help them stay calm
  • Choose a time when both of you are in a conversational and happy mood
  • Expect resistance but don’t give up trying and don’t take the outbursts personally

2. Hire a Professional Caregiver

The second step becomes easier once you have made the senior understand why they need long-term care. Once you reach this step, your senior loved one has already understood that you’re not doing this to take away their independence, but it is for their good.

A caregiver will constantly check up on them and help them run their day-to-day activities while keeping their mental health in check. Their quality of life is improved in the long run, and it keeps your mind at peace wherever you are, knowing that they are in good hands.

3. Ensure They Take Their Medications

Some seniors may have prescribed medications to help treat the illness or decrease the symptoms. You will need to know the drugs they are using, the dosage, and the side effects.

Also, some of these medications may require specific lifestyle changes such as not talking alcohol, eating or avoiding certain foods, and taking certain types of supplements. Ensure that they understand this. Always check the medicine cabinet for signs of drug abuse or skipped doses.

4. Entrust Them with Some Duties

Pin-pointing these mental health issues early enough builds a plan to take care of seniors. However, it adds more value if you give them duties to make them feel independent while adding a sense of responsibility.

For example, you can get them a pet like a dog that acts as the perfect companion while physically active. Also, you can re-introduce hobbies that they dropped or new ones that will help improve their mental health.

Seniors can also be involved in making decisions about their home care routine, ensuring they are comfortable with the laid down plan for their treatment.

5. Show Affection with Actions

Expressions of love are an excellent method of helping seniors who are struggling with mental illness. Some of the ways you can do this are by:

  • Listening to them
  • Hugging them
  • Accompanying them to doctor visits

Love is expressed in many ways, and it certainly makes the world a better place, and such simple things will keep their mental health under control.

6. Keep Seniors Socially Active

Studies have shown that an active social lifestyle helps improve the general well-being of individuals. Conversely, loneliness and isolation are some of the critical factors leading to depression amongst the senior living community.

To curb these, ensure that the seniors get the social support system they need by encouraging them to participate in community activities like volunteering, group outings, visiting friends and family. Having a solid social circle will keep their mental health in check in the long run.

7. Help Them With Paperwork

As seniors keep getting older, difficult choices have to be made. For this reason, legal representation needs to happen earliest possible. In cases of mental health disorders where the senior is a danger to themselves, you may need a medical attorney to make medical decisions on behalf of the senior.

The attorney has the power to ensure that the senior gets all the health care they need and that their needs are attended to as required. Power of attorney gives them the ability to authorize life and death decisions involving the senior.

The idea of taking care of seniors suffering from mental health conditions can be scary. There are numerous potential risks to these conditions blowing up if they are not well treated. For this reason, constant emphasis is put on preservative and restorative processes towards building a mentally healthy society.

About the Author

Jennifer Bell is a freelance writer, blogger, dog-enthusiast, and avid beachgoer operating out of Southern New Jersey.

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