Mental Illness : A Burden in Seniors and How We Can Help
Mental Illness Awareness Week: October 3 – 9
Mental impairment can be a difficult subject to approach. It’s natural for people to worry about their mental health as they age, especially considering that many of the symptoms are similar to those seen in dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. However, it is important, not only for seniors but also for their families and caregivers, that these early warning signs be recognized so that steps can be taken immediately to address them.
It is estimated that 40% of adults over the age of 65 have at least one mental health disorder, which include anxiety disorders, mood disorders, schizophrenia and substance abuse problems.
This article will discuss some of the most common signs of mental impairment with seniors, what causes them, and how you can help and support any loved one who deals with these problems if they arise.
Learn how to detect early signs of mental illness
Mental health is just as critical for adults over 60 years old, but it often gets overlooked and ignored because their symptoms may be more subtle or milder than those experienced by younger individuals with a diagnosis such as Schizophrenia or Bipolar Disorder .
If you’re wondering how to detect mental illness in seniors, there are some early warning signs that could signal trouble.
Here are some behaviors to watch for;
- Confiding only with relatives and not engaging socially at all or even answering when someone greets them; this behavior may be related to the loss of autonomy due, for example, to an injury causing disability.
- Frequent mood swings between anger/depression which can be caused by any number of reasons including stress, lack of sleep, or either of the next two behaviors.
- Changes in diet like drinking more caffeinated drinks, such as tea and coffee, because these beverages contain caffeine and can be a stimulant.
- Unusual sleep habits such as staying up all night or sleeping excessively during the day could also be an indicator that something is wrong, especially if it happens every day without exception.
The early detection of mental illness is an important part in making sure that the person diagnosed has enough time and resources to get help. A variety of signs can indicate a senior may need some extra support, but it’s also important not to make too many assumptions about them before checking up on what might be going on with family members or friends.
Have an open dialogue about mental health concerns
Having an open dialogue with senior family members about health concerns is something that may be beneficial for you and your senior loved one. It can also be difficult to know how to broach the subject, especially if they have a history of mental illness. If you are wondering how to bring up mental health with seniors, being direct and honest about your concerns might be the best way to start the conversation, but it’s also important to do so in a way that does not make them feel judged or inadequate.
You may want to let your senior loved one know that this is an ongoing concern for many people their age, and there are things you can work on together if they would like your help. This approach reassures your loved ones that you care about them and want to help, while at the same time reminding them of their freedom to decline your assistance.
If they do decline your assistance however, don’t be discouraged from bringing up the subject again in the future because senior health is something near and dear to everyone’s heart. In fact, sharing a health concern with senior family members may improve your relationship and allows senior loved ones to know that they can count on others when the going gets tough.
Be careful about what you say
Refrain from making comments that may be hurtful or discriminatory. Rude or discriminating remarks against seniors with mental impairments can upset the sufferer and their caregiver. It’s important to show them compassion and understanding when interacting with them so as not to make any negative remarks that could be hurtful or offensive in nature. Although your senior loved one may have declined your offer for help, showing support can come in many forms including just listening and letting them know that you’re there if they need someone to lean on. If you’re wondering what to say to senior family members, keep your comments positive and respectful because they deserve the same level of respect as everyone else.
Be patient and understanding during difficult times
When life gets tough, remember that not everyone has your loved one’s best interests at heart. Be patient and understanding of seniors with mental impairment who may be going through difficult times in their lives. While you can’t take away their mental health issues or change the way they feel, senior family members and loved ones can help senior friends and relatives by being supportive.
If senior family members are experiencing mood changes or exhibit any other signs that might indicate senior mental illness, it’s best to take a step back and not overreact. Your senior loved one may be going through something difficult in their life, which is completely understandable since senior health issues can take quite a toll on senior well-being.
You could offer to spend time with them doing something they enjoy, such as watching a movie together or playing a card game, to give your loved ones the chance to cheer up and know that someone will be there for them when struggles get to be too much.
Recognize when a senior needs professional help
If a senior loved one recognizes their mental health problems are increasing and they need professional assistance, it’s important to acknowledge this and be willing to do whatever you can to help them get the help they need. This includes encouraging senior family members and friends that there is no shame in seeking out senior mental health services.
In addition, not everyone has the same senior health views as others. Remind senior family members that senior mental illness is just as real as senior physical ailments, there are treatments available to help senior loved ones battle senior mental illness, and they are not alone in the fight against these health concerns .
From direct intervention to helping them find a therapist or counselor , you should be willing to do whatever you can to make it easier to deal with and treat senior health issues.
Offer emotional support while they are getting treatment
As senior loved ones go through mental health treatment, try to recognize and respect their boundaries. For example, avoid asking them what they discussed with their therapist unless senior family members are comfortable enough to disclose this information. Offer your support during a tough time, not just with the physical side effects of treatment but also emotionally. Offer them an ear if they need someone to talk to or offer empathy in general so that you can help lift their spirits as well.
Stay involved with your loved one’s care
As a family member, it can be tough to watch your loved one struggle with health problems, either mental or physical, and not know what they need. You might think that the best thing for them would just be some time out on their own but this isn’t always possible because of how busy life gets sometimes! If senior loved ones are surrounded by friends who are happy to come round for a chat, this can be great. But if not, you can help senior family members find the senior services they need to keep them occupied and give them some time away from home.
Know who can provide backup caregiver support
For example, you know that your parents are aging and have a mental impairment, but you need help with caring for them. There is no shame when it comes to needing some assistance! You can always get support from friends or family members by asking around – just make sure they know what their limitations might be first so the right person will fit into both of your lives seamlessly and without any problems.
If senior family members are not comfortable with asking around, there are senior care agencies that will be more than happy to assist senior loved ones in getting senior care assistance so senior family members can have a moment to rest and also have time for self-care. Don’t let senior health issues get you down – you can get help!
For anyone who has ever cared for an aging parent with mental impairments, it’s frustrating to know that there is no one else but you. You may feel alone and unsure how to help them best or even communicate your needs as a caregiver without sounding desperate – but these worries simply don’t need to apply anymore because we have some great news: The experts at Silver Companions can provide backup support in many areas including dementia care. If you’re not sure where to start, you can contact us at (678) 494-8129 or email us at info@SilverCompanions.com. We are happy to have a no-obligation conversation about your unique situation. You can let us know how we can help you stay in control and manage your loved one’s everyday life with ease.