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  • Writer's pictureGolden Horizons

Mental Health Awareness! The Importance of Checking in on Older Adults

The rise in mental health awareness over the past decade has been an admirable and extremely beneficial societal effort. Now more than ever, mental health is normalized and recognized as being a vital contributor to overall health. However, for older adults, these efforts of normalization may have come too late for them to rewrite the mental health narrative that may be ingrained in their minds. Many older adults do not know how to recognize signs of mental health problems and may feel a sense of taboo talking about their mental health to others.

Older adults can experience a multitude of mental health problems for a number of reasons. There are, of course, always the stress factors of everyday life that can contribute to mental health issues, such as financial responsibilities, but older adults can also experience other stressors such as a loss in physical or mental functional capabilities. This causes a loss of independence in daily life. Older adults also usually experience a greater feeling of loneliness as friends, spouses, or family members pass away. They can also sadly be vulnerable to elder abuse. Depression and anxiety are among the most commonly seen mental health problems in the elderly.

It’s always crucial to check in on all loved ones, but especially the older adults in your life to make sure they are doing okay and have a good quality of life. Mental health and physical health are intertwined, and a decline in one area may lead to a decline in another.

The following signs may be indication that you or your loved one is struggling with their mental health; (from the National Institute of Mental Health)

  • Noticeable changes n mood, energy level, or appetite

  • Feeling flat or having trouble feeling positive emotions

  • Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much

  • Difficulty concentrating, feeling restless, or on edge

  • Increased worry or feeling stressed

  • Anger, irritability or aggressiveness

  • Ongoing headaches, digestive issues, or pain

  • A need for alcohol or drugs

  • Sadness or hopelessness

  • Suicidal thoughts

  • Feeling flat or having trouble feeling positive emotions

  • Engaging in high-risk activities

  • Obsessive thinking or compulsive behavior

  • Thoughts or behaviors that interfere with work, family, or social life

  • Unusual thinking or behaviors that concern other people

It’s important to note that the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline number has changed and is now 988. Dial 988 to speak with someone and get help 24 hours a day.

Mental health problems can be treated and mitigated. Of course, prior to any treatment, talk to your doctor. This is a wonderful way to gain access to the best mental health resources and specialists to give you the support you need.

If you think that your elderly loved one may be struggling with mental health problems, ensure that they have the necessary resources to meet their needs and have a conversation with them about mental health and its importance. Suggest they visit their doctor, help make an appointment, and give them a ride if needed. Even just a small favor like that can be very helpful to an older person and make them feel loved and supported.

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