Seniors face many life changes that can cause stress and mental health concerns. Learn about methods and resources for addressing them in healthy ways.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 15% of older adults suffer from a mental health condition. Issues such as bereavement, loss of physical abilities, and isolation can all contribute strongly to mental health decline in seniors. Left untreated, depression, anxiety, and many related conditions can even lead to suicide.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help seniors cope with the life changes they’re facing in healthy ways so they can enjoy a high quality of life in their golden years.
Spend time together, safely
Although it may not be safe to sit inside a building together due to the pandemic, you could visit in the yard sitting a safe distance apart and enjoy a meal together. Create a regular routine of visiting so they can look forward to having company. If you’re not in the same geographic area, call regularly so they’ll have a consistent connection with their loved ones.
If seniors are able to socialize in person with close friends, help set up get-togethers. Driving your aging parent to a friend’s house for a backyard visit once a week could improve their quality of life. Virtual visits can also help them stay connected. If your loved one doesn’t know how to chat by video, walk them through using software like Zoom or Skype or help them launch the app. Bonding with peers who are going through similar challenges can give them a strong support network.
Hire a caregiver
Having a compassionate caregiver can allow seniors to live independently for longer through home care while also providing companionship. A caregiver doesn’t necessarily just help with activities of daily living; they may also spend time just visiting your loved one or taking part in fun activities, like doing a puzzle or taking a walk. Having someone around regularly to help them focus on the joys of life can make all the difference.
Exercise that fits a person’s abilities can greatly enhance their mental state. As seniors’ physical abilities change, they may need assistance finding a new exercise routine that works for them now. Talk with a physical therapist about their options, like chair yoga or walking. Free online workout programs exist for a variety of fitness levels. Guided meditations can also help relieve stress and anxiety.
Find the right treatment
Close communication between mental and physical healthcare providers can create a safety net that ensures mental health conditions are addressed. A geriatric psychiatrist can give seniors treatment tailored to their needs, including the appropriate medication dosage for their age and physical condition. Accompany your loved one to all appointments and keep a careful record of all medications they’re taking.
The Eldercare Locator will help you easily find resources in your area, while the National Coalition on Mental Health and Aging offers resources on numerous conditions and challenges faced by seniors. If you or a loved one is experiencing a crisis, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for support at 1-800-273-TALK.
Finally, if you’re a caregiver for a senior, make sure you have coping tools for dealing with stress. Witnessing a parent going through a difficult time—as well as providing consistent care—can be emotionally challenging, so identify people and strategies that will support your own wellbeing.
Aging Care, “Understanding Mental Health Issues in Seniors”
The Alzheimer’s Association, “Caregiver Stress”
ElderCare, “Behavioral Health”
GiveFit, “Welcome to GiveFit”
NASMHPD, “Weaving a Community Safety Net to Prevent Older Adult Suicide”
The National Coalition on Mental Health and Aging, “Resources”
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, “National Suicide Prevention Lifeline”
Very Well Health, “The 6 Best Guided Meditations of 2020”
WHO, “Mental Health of Older Adults”