You may have noticed something like this: your elderly mother, who would never be seen in public anything less than impeccably groomed, doesn’t bother to get her hair and nails done anymore. Maybe your loved one seems to forget things more than they used to, or maybe the once-careful driver now seems erratic and frankly a danger to people around. So can you conclude that it’s a mental illness such as depression, or mental/cognitive decline responsible for these changes?
Mental health in seniors.
You typically see lots of older people out and about, doing all the things that you do, enjoying themselves in the Indianapolis area. However, ours is an aging population. Life expectancy continues to increase in our society. This is progress of course, however it has unfortunate fallouts. For a number of different reasons, a very large proportion of the older demographic reports significant depressive and anxiety related symptoms.
According to the WHO, about 20% of adults aged 60 and above have a mental or neurological disorder. Poor mental health translates to dementia, depression, and serious loss of quality of life. Very often, substance abuse in older people remains undetected or is misdiagnosed. There are several stressors that contribute to mental illness and decline in older people: medical conditions that cause chronic pain, reduced ability to function autonomously, frailty and mobility issues. Isolation, loneliness, and bereavement or the loss of a loved one can compound the problem further.
Watch out for these early signs of mental issues.
Has a loved one lost weight recently? Do they seem listless and less interested in food than before? Are they no longer interested in the things they used to love earlier? If there are significant changes and any uncharacteristic behavior in your loved one, you may have reason to worry.
Watch out for changes in personal care in your parents or other loved ones. If your loved one isn’t as well turned out as they used to be, if they appear to avoid bathing, and seem to neglect their appearance, these could be warning signs. If, for instance, mother no longer seems to be as bothered with makeup as she used to, or if dad doesn’t bother to change out of his pajamas where earlier he wouldn’t be caught dead in his PJs after 8 AM, you may worry. Memory issues are another warning sign: failing to remember the names of loved ones, misplacing things, forgetting how to do routine chores, missing important dates, asking for the same information repeatedly… these could be some warning signs.
Social withdrawal is another red flag. If a usually gregarious loved one finds excuses to avoid going out and gives unconvincing reasons to blow off events they would otherwise have enjoyed, this is cause for concern. Don’t ignore a generally cheerful person becoming withdrawn, a usually independent person becoming diffident and anxious. In other words, watch out for any personality changes. Unexplained mood swings, fearfulness in everyday situations, confusion or angry outbursts may also indicate problems. If you notice a lack of purpose in life, sleep changes and low energy in your loved one, these could all point to problems. These problems could be age related decline or could be caused by the sociological issues that accompany old age.
How to maintain good mental health.
Mental health studies tell us that social, emotional and practical types of support are seen to reduce risk of physical illness as well as mental issues. Older adults who have people around to share their problems with, who have informational support (guidance, advice etc.), and practical support such as help with housekeeping, mobility, cooking etc. are seen to fare better. Those who have more social interaction with others – having an intimate partner, attending social gatherings, enjoying visits to the cinema etc., are also seen to have better mental health. Older people who have lost their partner of many years or even lost a beloved pet are more at risk of isolation and mental issues.
So, keeping in touch with friends and loved ones, getting out and about, continuing to have an active social life are ways to maintain good mental and emotional health. Getting regular physical exercise is another way to keep mentally healthy. Getting out of the house for a walk, playing a sport of some sort, swimming, taking an exercise class are all great ways to keep physically fit and stave off mental problems at the same time. Doing word puzzles, memory games, Sudoku, playing strategy/board games or anything that exercises the mind is another effective way to keep the brain healthy and mental decline at bay.
Looking after mental health in assisted living
In Willow Haven Senior Homes, the accent is on holistic wellbeing and support for our senior residents. Suitable home modifications make it easier to move about and significantly reduce chances of injury and accidents. The daily task of making meals and snacks, and difficult household chores are taken care of. Medications are supervised. There are people around to share meals with, chat with and enjoy various activities with. There are emergency protocols in place to ensure that timely medical aid is provided. The safety and security of being in assisted living, surrounded by other residents and caregivers is itself something that reduces anxiety. Then there is the added benefit of physical and social support helping to reduce stress and elevating the mood. Seniors have a new purpose and look forward to the day ahead.
Do you think your loved one is worried or stressed? Do they seem lonely to you? Have they been withdrawn or less than well groomed? If so, maybe now is the time for changes in their life. Maybe it is time for a change of scene, time to give them a new purpose in life. Call us (317) 207-0002 to know about our assisted living set up and the facilities we offer. You can come and visit us in person if you prefer. Schedule a visit today.