When people think and talk about senior care, they usually focus on physical support services. Care is typically framed as assistance for seniors with frailty, disability, or mobility concerns. But physical assistance is only half of the equation to quality senior care. Caring for seniors’ mental and emotional health is often just as, or even more, important than physical care and support. Elderly Mental Health: The Forgotten Half of Senior Care
That has been underscored by a recent study out of Munich, Germany. Researchers found that a person’s psychological health had a far bigger impact on how they rated their own well-being than their physical health. Elderly Mental Health: The Forgotten Half of Senior Care
The goal of senior care shouldn’t just be keeping seniors physically healthy — it should also allow seniors to enjoy their golden years and feel comfortable while aging in place. To do that, the conversation around senior care needs to include a wider and more serious focus on seniors’ mental health.
Expanding the Conversation Around Seniors’ Mental Health
In recent years, conversations around elderly mental health have helped change the way people think about senior care. Issues that used to be brushed off — like anxiety, insomnia, and loneliness — are now regularly talked about. These issues and their effects on elderly well-being are also subject to an increasing amount of research. That research has made clear that mental health issues can seriously impact seniors’ ability to find joy, comfort, and a sense of purpose in their later years.
But studies haven’t just found a link between psychological health and emotional well-being. Research has also shown that mental health can have a serious impact on seniors’ physical welfare. Studies have demonstrated that loneliness, depression, anxiety, stress, addiction, and insomnia are all linked to poor physical health outcomes in seniors. Seniors who suffer from senior isolation, for instance, have their average lifespan reduced at a similar rate to those who smoke or suffer from obesity.
Despite progress and increased awareness, there is still plenty of room for growth. We still attach far too much stigma to mental health — in the elderly and everyone else. As a result, seniors hide mental health concerns and family members often avoid asking questions when they sense something might be wrong.
That means we need to push the conversation forward. We need to treat issues like elderly depression with the same compassion, attentiveness, and urgency that we treat conditions like emphysema or diabetes. Only then will we be able to give seniors the care they need.
Changing the Way We Approach Senior Care
Changing the way we approach elderly mental health starts with all of us. Everyone — from senior care professionals to family caregivers, to seniors themselves — has a role to play in addressing this issue. Here are just a few ways we can start:
- Families can have more open conversations about mental health. Make a conscious decision to educate yourself on different conditions and to approach these conversations with a non-judgmental mindset.
- Family caregivers can start paying closer attention to signs of emotional and mental health concerns. That involves asking elderly loved ones questions about how they’re feeling, then making those feelings a core focus of care.
- Family caregivers should also focus on self-care for their own emotional and psychological needs. Doing so will help them become better caregivers, avoid caregiver burnout, and get more out of life.
- Senior care providers and professionals should encourage industry-wide education about how elderly mental health affects the well-being of seniors.
- Professional education and training should be encouraged so that caregivers understand the best strategies for managing these concerns.
- Senior care agencies and independent caregivers should expand their range of programs to include more services that focus on seniors’ psychological and mental well-being.
At Visiting Angels, we’ve incorporated these takeaways into our senior care services. When designing a custom care program for each client, we adopt a comprehensive perspective that includes physical, mental, and emotional needs. We also offer senior care programs that are built specifically for mental and emotional health concerns. Our companion care program, for instance, provides the regular human contact, compassion, and assistance that many seniors need to overcome feelings of loneliness, isolation, and reduced self-worth.
As always, if you believe a loved one is in danger due to depression, anxiety or another mental health concern, please contact their doctor immediately.
If you feel that senior care services could help your loved one remain engaged, upbeat and positive, we encourage you to contact your local Visiting Angels office and learn more about services available in your area. Elderly Mental Health: The Forgotten Half of Senior Care
Elderly Mental Health: The Forgotten Half of Senior Care
Elderly Mental Health: The Forgotten Half of Senior Care Elderly Mental Health: The Forgotten Half of Senior Care Elderly Mental Health: The Forgotten Half of Senior Care Elderly Mental Health: The Forgotten Half of Senior Care Elderly Mental Health: The Forgotten Half of Senior Care
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