Anxiety and depressive disorders are highly prevalent in the geriatric population. If you ever notice signs of agitation, mood swings, and an overall negative outlook towards life, your senior is most likely going through some mental health issues. The MHA (Mental Health America) has stated that, “more than 2 million out of 34 million Americans aged above 65 suffer from depression”. (Depression Is Not a Normal Part of Growing Older | Healthy Aging | CDC, 2019)
Age-related neurological changes have many implications including the development of anxiety and depression; with anxiety being more common than the latter. Although depression has a higher prevalence among younger adults; social isolation, poor quality of life, and pre-existing medical conditions are confounding factors found in depressed seniors. Mental health professionals have now outlined an appropriate clinical guideline for the treatment and management of geriatric anxiety and depressive disorders. If you are responsible for a senior, it is important to learn optimal management solutions for seniors suffering from mental illnesses.
Healthcare professionals may prescribe medications or psychotherapy sessions as part of the management protocol. At home, it is up to family members or friends to continue the ongoing treatment. Seniors often feel alone in this battle; therefore, it is important to learn of ways to help them manage their negative emotions. Following are a few points you can take note of; (Subramanyam et al., 2018)
- Talk therapy: Learn to actively listen to your seniors. Emotional conversations will help negate feelings of guilt and burden. We may not know what’s going on inside their minds. However, talking and listening to them will help us empathize with them. Do not invalidate their emotions as this may cause them distress, consequently affecting their mental health.
- Keep a regular routine: Repetitive patterns of lifestyle routine helps to establish a sense of control. This can include adopting a strict schedule for lunch, dinner and sleep. New routines should only be introduced slowly, allowing them to adapt to this sudden change.
- Encourage them to participate in activities: Engaging in social games like chess and carrom allows them to interact with their family members. Social engagement helps to divert their mind from negative emotions and improves cognitive function. Alternatively, physical activities also help them to maintain their exercising routine.
- Physical exercise: We all know how exercise improves cerebral blood flow and metabolism. This is primarily important for seniors who live a sedentary lifestyle. One does not have to do robust exercises in fact, a light walk, or geriatric approved exercises can also be encouraged. If the person is bound to a wheelchair, you can encourage them to do upper-body exercises. Exercise also alleviates a person’s mood.
- Healthy diet: Most seniors have digestive issues, or their palate may change, developing a distaste towards particular food groups. Outline a proper nutrition plan including anti-inflammatory diets and vitamins/minerals like D3. Nutritional deficiencies have a direct correlation with impaired cognitive function. Therefore, high intake of green vegetables, and fiber-enriched cereals are encouraged. Furthermore, alcohol intake must be limited to a few glasses per week as excessive alcohol consumption depresses a persons’ mood.
- Meditation: It is equally important to set aside a time for them to meditate. This allows them to find their inner-peace and filter out their thought process. Sign them up for meditation classes or have them watch YouTube tutorials; whichever is feasible. The goal is to achieve a sense of awareness and not let their mind wander towards self-destructive thoughts.
- Be kind: Anxiety and depression are invisible illnesses. And it can be aggravating when our seniors don’t cooperate with our attempts to help them live a more meaningful life. Therefore, try to instill patience and positivity in yourself first. Take advice from doctors and therapists. If this is a novel experience, join an online support group or take advice from a professional. As a caregiver or responsible family member, you should take on the responsibility to look after their mental health and find ways to help your senior live a full and satisfying life.
Xtreme Care is here to guide you and your loved one through the home care process. If you or someone you love needs care at home, please contact us to see how we could help. We serve all 5 boroughs of New York City and have been serving clients like yourself for over 20 years. Call us now at 718-461-9602 or email us at [email protected]
Depression is Not a Normal Part of Growing Older | Healthy Aging | CDC. (2019, June 7). https://www.cdc.gov/aging/mentalhealth/depression.htm
Subramanyam, A. A., Kedare, J., Singh, O. P., & Pinto, C. (2018). Clinical practice guidelines for Geriatric Anxiety Disorders. Indian Journal of Psychiatry, 60(Suppl 3), S371–S382. https://doi.org/10.4103/0019-5545.224476