It could be because of their retirement, the fact that they had to leave the job they’ve been doing for years. Or it could be loneliness, thinking that they’d be stuck at home or in their retirement home, doing nothing. Or maybe it’s the emptiness of being away from their families. It could be all these and more, but the truth is, older adults experience depression and anxiety.
This is why it is important that their mental health should be prioritized. And while there are caregivers, nurses, and staff to provide assistance, the support of the family makes a difference in the mental health of older adults.
They need attention, care, and support because sometimes, just knowing that there are people beside them and that they are not forgotten makes the older adults feel better.
What older adults go through
Depression and anxiety among older adults are relatively common.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 20% of adults who are 55 years old and above suffer from mental health concerns. These include anxiety and mood disorders like depression. The CDC lists down the following symptoms for depression:
- Persistent sadness
- Disinterest in doing usual activities
- Sleeping problems
- Physical discomfort
- Slowing down of lifestyle
The CDC also lists down possible risk factors, including being widowed, physical illness, heavy alcohol consumption, changes in functional ability, and low educational attainment. Meanwhile, depression is also typically experienced by some who are suffering from depression.
Unfortunately, these conditions have become worse due to the pandemic. And just like those who lost their loved ones, lost their jobs, or lost passion and excitement in life because of the current situation, some older adults also experienced mental health struggles over the past year.
According to a study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, older adults who are in their 50s and 60s and those suffering from poor health had higher risks of depression, anxiety, sleep problems, and other mental health problems. Their findings show that older women adults aged 50 to 64 who had higher levels of educational attainment and those whose physical health was poor experienced worse mental health struggles during the first months of the pandemic.
It must have been worse for older adults who live far from their loved ones. Separation brings them anxiety, coupled with fears over the spread of the virus. Uncertainties brought about by the situation also worsen their depression and anxiety.
What could you do to help them prevent depression?
Because older adults tend to suffer from mental health issues, you might want to carefully think about your decisions related to your older family members. Will it be good for them to stay with you at home, to give them their own place to live, or to bring them to a retirement home or a facility where they can interact with other older adults?
It might be helpful if you can seek advice from experienced senior living advisors. They do research and conduct ocular inspections on different facilities in a specific area. They know what activities do these facilities or nursing homes offer. This will guide you in deciding where to bring your older adult family members in case you decide to send them to one.
By knowing the kind of environment this facility fosters and which activities they offer, you get to choose the best. The environment where these older adults stay, the activities they do on a daily basis, and the people they interact with 24/7 will set their mood. If they get to be in a facility where it is quiet and calm, and if they get to be surrounded by people who nurture, then the least likely they will undergo depression and anxiety.
It would also help if you get to visit them from time to time, especially during the pandemic situation. Being surrounded by people they can talk toand by reassuring them that everything will be okay will surely make them feel better.
Exercise helps. If they remain active, they will most likely feel refreshed and energized. Thus, keeping away the bad vibes. What’s important is they have people who they can talk to about their thoughts and their feelings. So that, even if they are away, they will feel like they are not alone.
Everybody has been struggling during the pandemic. But, the older adults remain to be the most vulnerable not only with physical sickness but also with mental struggles. Aside from their material needs, what we really need to give them is love, support, and attention. Let us not make them feel like they’re alone, especially now that things are still struggling to get better.