As we get older, we experience many changes that can significantly alter our daily life, often affecting mental health. Being diagnosed with a disease or navigating the loss of a spouse can be overwhelming. While some seem able to cope with these major events, others experience feelings of depression and choose isolation. Monitoring mental health concerns is especially vital for seniors. The World Health Organization reports that over 20 percent of senior adults suffer from mental health issues—typically depression, dementia, and anxiety.
Mental health in older individuals often goes unnoticed and untreated, as their family mistakenly believes that their behavior is a normal part of the aging process. (it is not!)
The stigma associated with mental health issues can also cause your loved one to feel reluctance to seek needed help.
Life Events That Affect Mental Health in Seniors
Older adults often live with some level of depression and anxiety but are also more likely to experience reduced cognitive abilities. Here are the most common events that can impact the mental health of those we love.
Grief: Losing a friend or family member is one of the most traumatic events we experience. As people grow older, these losses are often more frequent. The manifestation of grief is unique to every individual – they may be very emotional, get angry, isolate themselves, or feel “drained” and numb.
Sickness or Injury: A serious diagnosis can throw anyone into a tailspin, and these diagnoses are more likely in older adults. Reduced mobility, chronic pain, and terminal illness can all significantly impact the mental health of a senior adult.
Financial Challenges: Retirement can be an exciting time, but a drop in monthly income can inspire stress in a person’s life. Older and elderly adults often have to implement a stricter budget than they are used to, disrupting lifelong habits and preferences. These changes can trigger complex emotions that can lead to mental health issues.
Moving to an Adult Residence: After years of making memories in the family home, it can be challenging to leave it behind. Stressors due to moving – whether for financial reasons, safety, or physical health – can negatively impact mental health.
Depression: One of the most pervasive mental health issues is depression, causing a continually lousy mood or loss of interest in favorite activities. Symptoms of depression are diverse and sometimes hard to identify – these may include apathy, excessive sleeping (or insomnia), social isolation, and feelings of hopelessness. Family members should take depression seriously, as it can lead to destructive habits and self-harm.
Dementia: Dementia is an umbrella term that refers to an impaired ability to remember, think, and make decisions to the point where it interferes with an older adult’s daily life. Symptoms of dementia may include a decrease in cognitive and mental capacity, confusion, personality changes and mood swings, memory loss, and garbled speech. Those experiencing dementia typically can no longer live independently.
Anxiety: Anxiety triggers a sensation of fear or apprehension. While normal in stressful situations, anxiety is considered a mental health issue when symptoms become debilitating or have no identifiable root cause.
Helping With Your Loved One’s Mental Health Concerns
While your senior family member may require counseling, medical intervention, or medication to address their mental health, many of these issues can be addressed with companionship and empathy. Seniors often feel alone and misunderstood; a good friend, a confidant, or even a pet can help significantly.
Assisted living is another option for many seniors looking for friendship, activities, and community. Call A Banyan Residence today to learn more about our residence and the many amenities and activities we provide.