Mental health issues are common in older adults, but they are not a normal part of aging.
Some seniors will display signs of anxiety and depression, which will alert their caregivers. However, other times a senior’s mental health will go unnoticed.
There are numerous reasons why a senior may be struggling mentally. They could be going through a bout of depression, experiencing side effects from a medication, or responding to a stroke, cancer, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, or Dementia.
Without self-care, socialization, and support, seniors can struggle mentally, emotionally, and physically. Mental health is essential to all but becomes increasingly important with age.
Caregivers can ensure their seniors stay healthy by letting them keep their independence and offering them opportunities to eat healthy, exercise, and socialize.
Mental Health Risk Factors For Seniors
People of all ages experience stress in life.
But, the list of stressors grows with age.
When a senior experiences chronic pain, reduced mobility, cognitive decline, and other health problems, they will feel less independent.
When a senior loses their independence and feels they have no control over their life, it can take a toll on their mental health.
It is also common for seniors to struggle with grief. Losing a spouse, child, sibling, or close friend can trigger emotional and physical reactions. A senior may find it challenging to get out of bed, eat, and become increasingly irritable.
Losing someone close can make a senior feel even more lonely and isolated.
Seniors may also feel vulnerable and concerned about their health, belongings, and financial situation. Seniors without support and a compassionate caregiver may worry about abandonment, neglect, and abuse.
Medical conditions can increase the chances that a senior experiences mental health problems too.
Even conditions such as diabetes can affect a senior’s mental health. Feeling uncomfortable, living in chronic pain, stress, and fear, can all elicit negative feelings and emotions.
How Can Seniors Improve Their Mental Health?
Fortunately, there are numerous ways a senior can improve their health and wellbeing.
Exercise the Brain
Brain games can help a senior socialize and sharpen thinking skills, planning skills, reaction time, decision making, and short-term memory.
Puzzles and board games are more examples of activities seniors can do with others to help maintain their memory and cognition. Keeping the mind sharp helps seniors regulate their emotions and feel better mentally.
Exercising for at least 20 minutes a day can help release endorphins, increase a seniors happiness and protect their mental health. Staying physically active makes the body and brain stronger.
If your senior cannot engage in physical activities, playing an instrument or reading can promote feelings of peace and happiness.
Adopt a Pet
Caring for a pet can be beneficial for all seniors. Having a pet decreases blood pressure and feelings of loneliness and increases opportunities for socialization.
Symptoms to Watch For in Seniors
As a caregiver, you must monitor your loved one’s mental and emotional health. Some signs could point to a deeper issue than previously thought.
Watch out for the following symptoms:
- Sadness that has lasted for weeks
- Consistent worries
- Sleeping too much or insomnia
- Trouble focusing
- Agitation or moodiness
- Loss of interest in things once enjoyed
- Unexplained weight loss or gain
- Hallucinations or delusions
- Taking more medication than prescribed
If you notice any of these symptoms in your senior loved one, reach out to a health care professional. There may be medication to help your loved one cope or treat an illness causing their symptoms.
At times life stressors can cause a decline in mental health.
A caregiver can help solve some of these problems for seniors. Something as easy as help with transportation or shopping can improve their outlook and mood. Finding the problem is the first step in finding a solution.
Addressing the Mental Health Needs of Seniors
Health care workers must be trained to recognize possible mental health issues in seniors. Caregivers can also benefit from joining a program to learn more about their loved one’s mental health and how they can meet their specific needs.
Joining a caregiver support group is another way caregivers can find resources and advice about their loved one’s mental health and wellbeing.
When health care workers and caregivers are educated in mental health issues and disorders related to aging, they can help seniors get diagnosed and treated sooner. Early recognition and treatment are critical for seniors to live a higher quality of life.
The mental health of seniors should be viewed as a public health issue. With the help of art and science, and through organizations, communities can come together and raise awareness, and protect seniors from being undiagnosed, mistreated, and isolated.
The Most Common Mental Illnesses in Seniors
Anxiety, severe cognitive impairment, and mood disorders are the most common mental illnesses found among older adults.
When a senior experiences anxiety they may have difficulties performing daily activities and feeling good mentally, emotionally, and physically.
While stressful life events can lead to anxiety disorders and panic attacks, so can chronic medical conditions, such as COPD, thyroid disease, and diabetes.
Getting your senior loved one an anxiety screening can make sure their disorder doesn’t go misdiagnosed or left untreated.
A cognitive decline can happen suddenly or gradually, depending on the cause of a senior’s impairment.
The cognitive impairment will typically result from a memory disease like Alzheimer’s, Dementia, and Parkinson’s disease, infections, medication side effects, metabolic imbalances, problems with hormones, vitamin deficiencies, or a psychiatric illness.
A healthcare provider or neurosurgeon can run a series of tests on a senior to determine what the probable cause is.
Depression and bipolar disorder are two of the most common mood disorders found in seniors.
When bipolar disorder goes untreated, a senior’s symptoms can worsen with age.
Rather than going through a series of highs and lows, they may stay in their depression. This makes a senior more likely to experience difficulties with memory, judgment, perception, and problem-solving.
With medication and support, bipolar disorder and depression can be treated and in time a seniors mood will increase.
The Kensington Falls Church Promotes Good Mental Health
At The Kensington Falls Church, we Promise to love and care for your family as we do our own.
Our cozy assisted living and memory care neighborhoods provide residents with support, high acuity care, individualized care plans, and safety.
Our team understands the needs of our residents may change daily, which is why we monitor our seniors’ well-being and health on a daily basis. Their comfort and quality of life are just as important to us as you.
To ensure seniors are healthy, we offer life enrichment activities, opportunities to socialize, rehabilitation services, spiritual wellness, medication administration, and healthy and delicious food.
Contact us to learn more about our warm and secure homes, programs, classes, and events.