Mental and Emotional Health

EMotional-Health-MGI-Seniors.jpgMaintaining a healthy diet and exercise regimen is important, but seniors should take steps to strengthen their mental and emotional health as well.

Depression is an often overlooked issue that affects seniors. As a person grows older, they may become more depressed due to a loss of independence, physical ailments, or other factors. Depression is often overlooked since a caregiver might see its symptoms as a natural part of aging or problems caused by another issue.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, seniors are more likely to suffer from depression when they give up some measure of independence. The CDC says the share of independent seniors with depression is fairly low—1 to 5 percent—but increases to 11.5 percent for older hospital patients and 13.5 percent for those requiring home health care.

Several signs can warn a caregiver that a senior might be depressed. These include feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness, fatigue, irritability, insomnia, and a loss of interest in hobbies or other activities they once enjoyed.

Psychotherapy, antidepressants, or a combination of these treatments can help a senior cope with depression. Caregivers can also take steps to connect seniors with activities, friends, and family to improve their emotional health.

The Alzheimer’s Association says a number of activities can help seniors stay mentally active and healthy. Retirees can use their newfound time to read, enjoy challenging puzzles and games, and even attend formal classes to learn a new skill. All of these activities will help keep their brain active.

Seniors can also join local clubs and social groups, such as meetings at senior centers. There are many opportunities for seniors to volunteer for charitable organizations and give back to their community.

Physical health is linked to mental health in a number of ways. Good cardiovascular health improves blood flow to the brain, so maintaining a healthy exercise regimen can reduce a senior’s risk of dementia. They can also benefit from a nutritional diet and giving up harmful activities such as smoking.

A senior’s mental and emotional health can be vastly improved if they are able to maintain contact with family and friends. Look into arrangements such as transportation provided by a senior center to help seniors go to church, attend local gatherings, and otherwise stay active in the community. They can keep in touch with family through personal visits and regular phone calls; video streaming services such as FaceTime and Skype can be especially useful.

Keeping a pet can also be beneficial. The responsibility of caring for this companion can help improve their mental health. Taking care of a dog gives the added physical benefit of long walks.

Seniors may be more likely to suffer from anxiety as they grow older, especially if they live alone. Caregivers can take steps to improve their sense of safety by installing an additional lock, peephole, or other security measures at their home. Seniors can also benefit from emergency call buttons that let them call for help in case of a fall.

Unfortunately, many seniors will suffer from dementia as they get older and their mental faculties decline. Dementia can be accompanied by anxiety, depression, emotional disturbances, and paranoia.

The Alzheimer’s Association says dementia has several symptoms, but can generally be diagnosed if at least two of the following are significantly impaired: memory, communication, focus, visual perception, and reasoning and judgment. Some warning signs include difficulty completing familiar tasks, memory loss that affects daily life, confusion with time or place, or changes in mood or personality.

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