How to Improve Mental Health in the Elderly

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Mental health is important at all stages of life and more so as we age. Sometimes, seniors’ mental health can face setbacks due to significant life changes. These changes could be biological, the death of a loved one, critical illness, or dealing with mobility issues. Physical health issues are evident and are often attended to promptly.  But mostly, it is mental health that gets overlooked. Estimates say that more than 20% of people aged 55 and above may have some type of mental issue. Due to the rapidly increasing elderly population, the number of seniors with mental issues can double by 2030. 


Mental health problems can affect a senior’s ability to tackle basic everyday activities, resulting in reduced independence, loss of confidence, and poor quality of life. Mental health problems may manifest as feelings of isolation, depression, anxiety disorders, dementia, or sleep and behavioral disorders. 


Hence, along with physical health, it is imperative to focus on seniors’ mental health. Research indicates that particular activities can benefit cognitive health positively.  Keeping the seniors physically, mentally, and socially occupied goes a long way in boosting their mental health.

How to Improve Mental Health in the Elderly?

Brain health is an important aspect of overall health. A brain-healthy person finds it easier to accomplish everyday tasks and has a pleasant disposition. A few lifestyle changes can make a difference and ensure improved mental health. 


Here are a few tips that can help seniors function better:

1. Reinvent Yourself Socially: 

Man is a social animal, and perhaps that is why social interaction is a vital component of mental health. Research suggests that healthy social relations benefit seniors. Keeping in touch with old friends and making new friends is an excellent way to stave off loneliness.  Moreover, participating in neighborhood programs, volunteering for activities you like, being part of faith-based groups and local civic centers are valuable socialization opportunities. 


Reinventing yourself socially is not a great challenge after all. Technology has made it very easy to stay in touch today. Keeping oneself abreast of technological advancements is a great way to stay connected. Keeping seniors socially active plays an important role in mental health care for seniors.

2. Keep a Proper Sleep Schedule

Proper sleep schedule to improve seniors mental health

It is a common belief that poor sleep is a sign of aging. But what we don’t know is that this seemingly common problem has serious negative consequences on health. Sleep issues can have a debilitating impact on the elderly’s mental health. Poor sleep quality and short sleep duration result in increased risks of depression, dementia, and cognitive decline. It has also been noted that lack of sleep can lead to a higher risk of falls and accidents. 


Keeping a proper sleep schedule contributes significantly to seniors’ mental health. Quality sleep improves concentration, restores cell damage, and boosts the immune system. 


Encouraging better sleep habits like the following will help improve quality of life and ward off or delay mental issues.

  • Consistent sleep schedules.

  • Limiting the use of sleep medications.

  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and sugary foods before bedtime.

  • Minimizing liquid intake before bedtime.

  • Confirming a proper sleep environment like a dark and quiet bedroom.

 

3. Consult With Medical Professionals:

The stigma associated with seeking help for mental health is perhaps the biggest barrier in its treatment.  Therefore, mental disorders often go unidentified and untreated. Untreated mental disorders can sometimes lead to feeling suicidal. Studies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest that the suicide rate among older adults is very high, almost 36 per 100,000 individuals. In this light, it is imperative to avail the treatment offered for mental health issues. Seeking professional help at the right time can avert the problem from getting out of hand. 


Talking to a professional ensures complete confidentiality and a structured solution to the senior’s problem. Accordingly, the caretaker may advise exercise therapy, counseling, or medication for speedy improvement. 

4. Spend Time With Loved Ones:

spend time with grandchildren to improve seniors mental health

Evidence suggests that spending time with loved ones can improve seniors’ cognitive, emotional, and physical health. Spending quality time with people who matter provides seniors with a stable source of connection that can directly impact their quality of life. Reports say that seniors having favorable relations with family and friends have better mental health. 


With advancements in technology, staying connected with loved ones is easier than ever. Visit, make calls, facetime, write letters, text, dash off emails, and stay connected. Some studies even suggest that frequent interaction between grandparents and grandchildren lowers depression risks for seniors. 

5. Continue to Do What You Love:

Post-retirement is the right time for seniors to revisit their passions that they could have discontinued. With time on their side, seniors can continue doing what they love or pick up new hobbies. 


At times, the physical health of seniors may not allow them to be a part of activities that they enjoyed earlier. Despite that, seniors can follow their passions as spectators, instructors, or volunteers. 


Having an active and productive lifestyle can be a good way to make fruitful use of time, avoid boredom and loneliness. Moreover, following a hobby or a passion gives the seniors a sense of purpose to stay socially active. 

6. Start Using Mobility Aids to Reduce the Risk of Falls:

Falls are common in older adults and can lead to injury and increased disability. Apart from physical health, falls can have a devastating effect on seniors’ mental health. Studies show that 30-73% of seniors develop a fear of falling, leading to activity restrictions, loss of confidence, depression, anxiety, and isolation. 


One of the ways of helping seniors regain confidence after a fall is by encouraging the use of mobility aids. Using assistive devices is an excellent way to improve mobility and reduce the risk of falls. The use of suitable assistive devices helps seniors regain their independence, which can help maintain good mental health.

Final Thought:

Making small changes in the routine of the elderly can positively impact seniors’ mental health. Better mental health ensures that the seniors are healthier and happier with improved thinking capabilities. 

 

FAQs

What are some strategies for older adults to keep mentally and physically stimulated?

Mental and physical stimulation are very vital for the overall well-being of older adults. Staying active takes care of mobility issues, wards off mental illnesses, keep away stress and uplifts your mood. Seniors can:

  • Stay socially connected.
  • Perform physical and mental exercises regularly.
  • Consume appropriate nutrition.
  • Follow a proper sleep schedule.
  • Adopt new hobbies or follow old ones.
  • Stay happy.

What is the most common mental health problem for older adults?

WHO recognizes dementia as a public health challenge. Studies say that 50 million people worldwide are battling dementia, and the figures could increase to 82 million by 2030. 

Why is treating mental health important?

Poor mental health can affect the ability to perform routine tasks and communicate with others. It can also be the reason for mood swings, behavioral issues, and erratic thinking. 

Treating mental issues is important as it can help to:

  • Maintain overall well-being.
  • Cope with stresses of life.
  • Build strong and healthy relations.
  • Stay productive. 

 

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