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Mental Health Awareness Month for Seniors in Home Care

May 18, 2021

Mental Health Awareness Month: Seniors who live at home have, like many others, had an unusually difficult year with regard to their mental health. The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated economic downturn have left many feeling anxious, depressed or unusually stressed. The elderly are less likely to report mental health issues. Likely as a result of the negative stigma placed on mental health issues, especially over the past 40 years.

Even so, nearly half of seniors reported that the pandemic had a negative effect on their mental health. That’s why there has perhaps never been a more apt time to commemorate Mental Health Month. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) and several other organizations are sponsoring programs to help seniors recognize and seek help for their mental health challenges. Highlighting the importance of Mental health and reducing the stigma during Mental Health Awareness Month.

Signs of Mental Health Issues in the Elderly

It’s important for seniors in at-home care to recognize the signs of declining mental health. Some of these can be subtle and attributed to other causes, while others are more obvious, such as:

  • Changes in eating habits, especially a lack of appetite
  • Changes in personal care.
  • Mood changes that last longer than two weeks
  • Short term memory loss and difficulty concentrating
  • Withdrawal from social situations

COVID has made many of these symptoms both worse and harder to detect. After all, it’s hard to tell if a senior has withdrawn from social situations; when everyone has to be at home all the time anyway. That’s why having an at-home care aide can help.

Home Care and Mental Health Issues in Seniors

In-home care for seniors can be an invaluable tool in recognizing and getting help for mental health issues. A care aide can provide valuable social interaction, and may be able to help them prevent further withdrawal. Assistance with personal care such as bathing and dressing is important and will keep seniors in a better routine and feeling better about themselves.

Assistance with light housekeeping can help seniors avoid the feeling of being overwhelmed at everyday chores which is something that many people report, especially when they’re already feeling out of sorts. Additionally, having fresh and healthy meals available can help seniors maintain a healthy appetite and proper nutrition, which is important for mental health.

Getting Mental Health Help for Seniors in Home Care

While having an at-home care aide can help identify and ease some of the signs of mental health issues, further intervention may be required. Seniors who exhibit signs of mental health issues may be in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Or they may be having a serious drug interaction, so consulting with a medical professional should be a high priority.

Even if the problem isn’t being caused by some outside physical issue; it’s important to seek help early in the progression of the symptoms. That can be difficult for seniors who have lived with a negative stigma around mental health issues for many years.

In the past, (and, unfortunately, too often in the present) mental health issues are framed as an issue of strength and weakness. In some cases as people seeking attention. While these stereotypes are slowly changing, seniors may not yet have received the message that, as the organization Hope for the Day puts it, “It’s OK not to be OK.”

Telling Seniors in Home Care “It’s OK Not to be OK”

The most important thing in talking to anyone; but especially seniors in home care who may be dealing with mental health issues, is to normalize their feelings and encourage them to share them. Living with a mental illness is okay. Many seniors, whose parents were adults during the Great Depression; were taught that as bad as their problems were, someone else’s were worse.

While perspective can be important when assessing your feelings, it cannot be stated clearly enough to seniors that they have a right to feel however they feel. A senior who feels grief after the loss of a loved one who passed away years ago may get told that they need to let go of that grief because of the amount of time that has passed. But everyone deals with grief differently, and there are no right or wrong answers.

And it’s important to realize that, for seniors, COVID not only caused feelings of fear and isolation. It may also have exasperated other feelings of loss. With more time on their hands to think about the loss of a loved one or simply coming to terms with other losses like mobility or weakened eyesight that make it harder to wile away the hours, seniors may find themselves reliving the emotional impact of what they have lost.

Getting Seniors the Help They Need at Home

An at-home caregiver can provide the services to help clear away distractions like daily chores. But it’s also important that seniors get the help they need for their mental health issues. Talking to a counselor or therapist is usually a good start.  Many seniors do not realize that most therapists accept insurance coverage; and some even accept Medicare or Medicaid, removing the lingering perception that therapy is only for wealthy people.

In addition, because of COVID-19, many therapists are more willing to utilize telehealth or video chat platforms to see patients. An in-home caregiver can even assist with setting up the technology so that seniors can get the support they need in the comfort of their own homes. If you or someone you know is in crisis; you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255, 24 hours per day and 7 days a week.

Home Care Powered by AUAF is Helping Seniors for Mental Health Awareness Month

The dedicated professional caregivers at Home Care Powered by AUAF are here to help seniors who need help at home in order to live their best lives during Mental Health Awareness Month and any other time. Our caregivers can provide a range of services from errands to laundry and much more. Find out how Home Care Powered by AUAF can help you or your elderly loved ones, give us a call today at 773-274-9262 or contact us to find out more.

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