Home Health and Fitness Mental Health in Seniors: How to Deal with It

Mental Health in Seniors: How to Deal with It

by Ariana David
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mental health

Introduction

Global Mental Health in Seniors are rampant amongst most of the modern world population. A hectic lifestylework and home-related stresspast traumatic experience, and the lack of balance in certain hormones in our bodies can cause the gradual development of mental illnesses.

Research shows that mental well-being is vital for people of all ages, and mental illnesses can be seen among people of any age group- starting from young children to older adults. 

Seniors may be more vulnerable if they develop any illnesses related to their mental well-being. They already have to deal with other age-related health problems that arise as they grow older. Several factors can lead to mental health decline in older adults. Some of them are: 

  • The loss of a loved one
  • Retirement
  • Dealing with a severe illness (like dementia). 

Mental Health in Seniors: How Does the Issue Look

  • Dementia / Depression – It affects around 5-7% of the world’s older population
  • Anxiety disorder affects about 3.4% of the world’s population
  • One-quarter of deaths caused by self-harm amongst people of 60 years old and above

Symptoms of Mental Illnesses

The symptoms of mental health issues among older adults can vary from one person to another. These may be identified by :

  • Frequent mood changes
  • Change in the energy levels of the individual
  • Isolating themselves and not partaking in activities that they usually enjoy doing
  • Feeling confused, angry, and a range of overwhelming emotions.
  • Feeling emotionally distant from people
  • Experiencing sudden physical pain and aches in different body parts
  • Significant rise in substance abuse.
  • Hallucinations and repeated thoughts of self-harm

Risk Factors

Older adults may have various issues that can worsen their mental health issues. 

Reduced mobility, loss of their significant other, decline in functional abilities, social alienation are some of the causes of stress that serve to deteriorate one’s mental state. One will need long term care and attention for treatment. 

Older patients with mental health issues are also vulnerable to elder abuse. This may include physical, verbal, psychological, financial, and sexual abuse. 

Some studies suggest that 1 in 6 senior citizens suffer from abuse. Any form of abuse can lead to physical injuries as well as severe, long-lasting psychological consequences.

Seeking Help

Another reason why older people mostly overlook such issues is a lack of knowledge about the existing health care infrastructure, which can be easily availed by them. There are several helpline numbers in different states for patients to reach out to in cases of emergency. 

There are also a few ways in which older adults can also help themselves deal with such problems depending upon the severity of the issue.

Stay connected

If you are dealing with a mental health problem like depression and anxiety, it is very natural to feel isolated. First of all, try not to be harsh on yourself and understand that it is entirely ok to feel that way; don’t blame yourself. It may feel challenging to maintain a positive perspective and keep working towards bettering your mental health.
An important reminder during this time is to socialize with people you love and trust. If possible, opt for physical conversations instead of digital ones. But making a pen pal isn’t a bad idea either! Use the resources available online to make a new digital pal if you feel very lonely and isolated.

Volunteer

your time to do activities that you like – Join a library group, an art class, work with non-profit organizations to help others. Remember, there is no feeling as satisfying as helping others in need.

Seniors volunteering for a social activity to keep their mental health good

Join a support group

We know that it might be tough for you to work on your mental health on your own. You might feel unfortunate or blame yourself for your health condition. In such cases, it is helpful to meet people who have similar experiences. Join a support group and go to the meetings regularly.
Hearing others share similar experiences will make you realize that you’re not going through it alone. You will feel much better when you have support from people going through the same problems. Support groups are a great place to feel secure, discuss your feelings without the fear of being judged, and help you feel included.

Laughter

is, after all, the best medicine. Watch your favorite comedy movie. If possible, go out and try attending stand-up open mics. 

Focus on self-care

One of the major setbacks we encounter in emotional health as we age is decreasing self-worth. Learn a new skill, focus on something you are good at or a hobby that you always wanted to pursue and couldn’t. Invest time in self-care through enriching yourself.

Travel

if you can, take pride in your appearanceactively engage with your community.

Adopt healthy habits

Eat a balanced lifestyleexercise more frequently (even if for short periods of time), and cut down on your alcohol intake. Remember, the way we treat our bodies reflects on our mental health. Make sure to stay fit and healthy physically as well!

Role of Mental Health Technicians

The nature of mental health conditions is such that people generally don’t feel comfortable reaching out for help. In such a case, the role of a Mental Health Technician becomes crucial.  Mental Health Technicians or Behavioral Health Technicians are professionals who can identify symptoms accurately.

Mental illnesses are still highly stigmatized globally, even though global mental health issues see an upward rise daily. 

In such cases, a Mental Health Technician will understand that the person they are caring for might either be too proud or extremely ashamed to talk about it. They might have a fear of becoming an unwanted burden on their family members. 

A Behavioral Health Technician’s role is to initiate the conversation regarding the patient’s mental health. They will encourage the patient to open up and make them feel like they are in a safe space.

Once the patient is comfortable, the Mental Health Technician may ask them questions like:

  • When did you start feeling like this?
  • Did something happen in the recent past that has led you to become depressed?
  • Are you worried/ stressed out about a situation or a family member?
  • Is there anything you feel that you need support with, in particular?

The Mental Health Technician may also check the patient’s medical history to learn if any particular medication or long-term illness might have contributed to their deteriorating mental health. A physical checkup may also be required.

The next step is to follow up with their physician for a regular checkup. Mental health, in many cases, may lead to deterioration of physical health.

Raising Awareness about Global Mental Health in Seniors

Mental Health America also observes May as the ‘Mental Health Awareness Month‘ where they try to raise collective awareness around mental health and emotional well-being. And dealing with mental health in seniors has become even more important today.

One can always try and find out more about such organizations working towards aiding people in their journey of informing, raising awareness, and overcoming mental health-related problems.

The World Health Organization celebrates World Mental Health Awareness Day every year on the 10th of October. Every year WHO celebrates this day by talking about a particular mental health-related issue. The theme for last year’s Mental Health Day was ‘Suicide Prevention‘. 

This year as we are facing a global pandemic, WHO aims to raise awareness around the issue of Global mental health during the time of Covid-19. 

This year’s campaign is “Increased Investment in Mental Health“. People have lost their family members, their jobs, and much more. Therefore WHO has decided to talk extensively about mental health issues around the world during the pandemic and how they can tackle it.

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