Did you know that almost 20% of people above the age of 55 deal with a mental health concern? Focusing on mental health is needed later in life and it is very important to know that mental health problems should not be looked at as a normal part of aging. It is easy to overlook mental health problems like depression because we are often so focused on the physical well-being of our aging loved ones. In that case, we are here to provide you with tools to help you see the warning signs and how to care for someone’s mental health. Some of the most common mental health conditions are:
- Severe cognitive impairment
- Mood disorders
- or a combination
What Are the Warning Signs of Depression or Other Mental Health Conditions?
There is no one specific sign or symptom to watch for but you should pay attention to the behavior changes listed below. If you see any of these consistently, you should speak with a physician or mental health care provider about next steps.
- Deep sadness or feeling of despair (lasting longer than two weeks)
- Getting little to no sleep or sleeping in excess
- Major swings in weight loss or weight gain
- Difficulty concentrating, feeling restless, or on edge
- Having a feeling of deep anger, irritability, or aggressiveness
- Acting reclusive and avoiding social activities
- Expressing suicidal thoughts
- Drinking alcohol or taking drugs in excess
- Being forgetful and acting confused on a frequent basis
- Feeling flat or having trouble feeling positive emotions
How to Improve an Aging Adult’s Mental Health
You can improve the mental health of your aging loved one through active and healthy aging. What does that mean exactly? Well, for starters, you will want to focus on their living conditions, overall well-being (physical and mental), and promoting a healthy lifestyle. This can include the following core components:
- Create a safe environment offering security, as well as autonomy
- Ensure the house has the supplies needed (food, resources, etc.)
- Encourage socialization with others in the community at local programs, classes, etc.
- Bring a pet into the picture to create a feeling of love and being needed
- Incorporate exercise into the daily routine
- Use meditation as a source of relaxation and centering
- Create a calendar of activities both short -and-long term
- Incorporate mental health professionals as resources
As we stated earlier, mental health is just as important as physical health and each will depend on the other. Don’t lose focus on important signs of depression or anxiety. Moving forward, be mindful of the warning signs and act today to invest in their mental health.