Most seniors don’t seek treatment or even help because they view their mental changes as a natural part of aging or partly because they are ashamed of their condition. While it’s normal for elderly people to experience some level of forgetfulness, it’s important to seek professional help if they show obvious changes in behavior or mood.
A significant number of elderly people experience one or more mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, dementia, and bipolar disorder. This, together with the natural physical and cognitive impairments that occur in old age, can endanger their lives. Here’s how you can care for elderly parents with mental health issues:
Have a Conversation
Bringing up the topic of long-term senior care can be difficult. To mom or dad, accepting this type of care may seem like giving up their independence. The topic is even more fraught if they have a mental illness.
As a caregiver, you are worried about how to approach the subject without upsetting them, or worse, receiving an irrational or violent reaction. Here are a few tips to help you start such a tough discussion:
- Choose a time when both of you are calm.
- Expect some form of resistance and don’t take any outbursts personally. Remember, they are also afraid of the unknown and any threats or emotional outbursts from your side will only add anxiety and even cause them to shut down communication.
- If you don’t succeed the first time, try again.
Schedule a Doctor’s Visit
The next step when caring for aging parents with mental illness is encouraging them to see a doctor. The doctor will give a diagnosis and prescribe medication that will help alleviate symptoms of the disorder. Remember to set up a therapist appointment as well. A good therapist will help your parents identify and learn how to cope with some of the underlying issues that may be causing their mental health issues.
Ensure Effective Communication
As a caregiver to aging parents with mental illness, you’ll have to communicate with many people, including their friends, other family members, healthcare professionals, etc.
Family members may want regular updates on a parent’s condition while the parent wants more privacy. It’s your job to manage these interactions effectively and keep them as stress-free as possible.
Gather As Much Information about the Illness as Possible
It’s important to do some research on the type of mental health problem an elderly parent is experiencing, not forgetting the different kinds of treatment available. Such information can be found on reputable websites such as health organizations or government sites.
You can also talk to the doctor and others who’ve cared for a loved one in a similar situation. In addition, find out about any online or local mental health assistance programs that can help you. All this information will help you figure out the types of emotional, practical, and financial support your parent might need.
Ensure They Take Their Medications as Prescribed
This will help treat the illness or alleviate symptoms. Be sure to know what medications have been prescribed, their potential side effects, as well as any interactions with other drugs the patient is taking, as well as food, supplements, and other substances.
Complete the Necessary Paperwork
Some mental health disorders, together with age-related illnesses, can pose unique challenges. They can cause aging parents to be of unsound mind, or be a danger to themselves or others. In such cases, you may need a power of attorney to make decisions, including medical ones, on their behalf.
Give Them Some Level of Control
Taking care of your parents when they are old is a great thing to do, but it can leave them feeling dependent and worthlessness. It’s important to keep them involved in their own care decisions, which in turn helps them feel more comfortable when it comes to taking a new step into their treatment.
Find Much Needed Support
Taking care of elderly parents can be overwhelming. Caregiver support is essential to anyone coping with the demands of taking care of aging parents. It’s also important for your parents to seek mental health support specifically intended for older people, as it will help them learn how to cope with their current condition.
If a parent’s mental health problems are proving beyond your capacity to provide home care, consider the option of assisted living for seniors. This may seem like a difficult decision to make, but it’s bound to improve his or her quality of life and reduce your stress.
Take Care of Yourself
Oftentimes, caregivers tend to overlook their own self-care when taking care of others. As a caregiver, your physical and emotional health is as important as the health of the one you’re taking care of.
Self-care can be achieved in many ways. For starters, general attention to daily activities such as exercising, sleeping, healthy eating, and socializing are all vital to your own overall well-being. Don’t forget to take breaks, as well as scheduling and keeping your own doctor appointments. And, be sure to ask for help from friends and family to help with different tasks.
If you or someone you know experiences mental health issues, it is important to seek help from a qualified professional. Our Resource Specialist can help you find expert mental health resources to recover in your community. Contact us now for more information on this free service to our users.
About the Author:
Emily Lamp is a freelance writer, working closely with many aspiring thinkers and entrepreneurs from various companies including Open Minds, the organization that supports independent living and provides good care for elderly people, physically and mentally. Emily is also interested in self-care, mental health awareness and loves sharing her views through her writing.
The opinions and views expressed in this guest blog do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc. The author and www.rtor.org have no affiliations with any products or services mentioned in this article or linked to herein.
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