May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Because mental health is essential to overall health and well-being, it must be recognized and treated in everyone, including older adults, with the same urgency as physical health.
It is estimated that 20% of people aged 55 years or older experience some type of mental health concern. The most common conditions include anxiety, severe cognitive impairment, and mood disorders (such as depression or bipolar disorder). Mental health problems are under-identified by healthcare professionals and older people themselves, and the stigma surrounding these conditions makes people reluctant to seek help.
There may be multiple risk factors for mental health problems at any point in life. Older people may experience life events common to all people, but also events that are more common in later life, like ongoing loss of functional ability. For example, older adults may experience reduced mobility, chronic pain, frailty, or other health problems, for which they require some form of long-term care. All of these events can result in isolation, loneliness, or psychological distress.
Mental health has a direct impact on physical health and vice versa. Older adults with physical health conditions such as heart disease have higher rates of depression than those who are healthy. Additionally, untreated depression in an older person with heart disease can negatively affect its outcome.
Depression, a type of mood disorder, is the most prevalent mental health problem among older adults. It can lead to impairments in physical, mental, and social functioning. The presence of depressive disorders often adversely affects the course and complicates the treatment of other chronic diseases. Older adults with depression visit the doctor and emergency room more often, use more medication, incur higher outpatient charges, and stay longer in the hospital.
The mental health of older adults can be improved by promoting active and healthy aging. Mental health-specific health promotion for older adults involves creating living conditions and environments that support well-being and allow people to lead a healthy life. To create these environments seniors can engage in activities to stimulate their brains such as reading, writing, doing puzzles, or playing games. Additionally, physical exercise such as stretching or going for walks is scientifically proven to improve mental health.
If you notice your loved one is experiencing changes in mood or energy, withdrawal from people and activities, significant tiredness, low energy, problems sleeping, or other feelings that may seem unusual, this could be a sign that their mental health could be declining, and it might be time to contact a health provider.
Home Care can aid in the mental health of seniors by providing: security, freedom, social support, and social activities. If your loved one is experiencing loneliness, we provide companion care. Our Caregivers will be present as a companion to prepare meals, manage laundry, help with light housekeeping, coordinate needed household tasks, and assist in medication reminders. In addition to at-home help, our caregivers will assist as concierges with shopping trips, running errands, medical appointments, and socializing activities to enhance the quality of life.
Home Care Partners is here to help you navigate options, create safe environments, and coordinate with healthcare partners creating daily peace of mind.
Don’t wait to discuss the needs of your loved one with your family!