Older adults can experience mental health issues due to life changes, such as retirement or losing a loved one. They may also develop emotional problems because of physical disabilities or severe illness.
Mental health and well-being are crucial in any stage of life, including older age. So, what mental health issues do older adults face, and how can they manage them? How can exercise help older adults address mental health problems?
This article explains ways older adults can manage specific mental health issues.
Health Conditions Older People Face
A 2021 report from the National Council on Aging (NCOA) showed that 80% of older adults, age 65 and above, have at least one chronic illness, and 68% have two or more.
Furthermore, according to the NCOA report, some of the most common health conditions older people face include the following:
- Hypertension (58%)
- High cholesterol (47%)
- Arthritis (31%)
- Ischemic or coronary heart disease (29%)
- Diabetes (27%)
- Chronic kidney disease (18%)
- Heart failure (14%)
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (11%)
Chronic conditions can make older adults dependent on a caregiver to perform daily activities. This perceived loss of independence may result in various psychological issues in older individuals.
Feelings of helplessness due to severe health conditions may also cause mental and emotional problems among older adults. For example, cancer patients can develop anxiety and depression during treatment and recovery.
Anxiety is unease, fear, or worry about a current or potential situation. It’s crucial to recognize anxiety and take action to control it or prevent it from worsening. At the same time, patients typically experience bouts of depression when coping with cancer.
It’s normal to experience grief and sadness when plans, objectives, and the future appear hazy. However, it can be problematic if individuals exhibit depression for an extended period or when they can no longer perform basic tasks.
Depression can vary from quick, mild episodes of sadness to more severe, chronic conditions. Major or clinical depression refers to the more serious types of the disorder.
It is more difficult for someone with major or severe depression to function and follow treatment regimens. This scenario happens to 1 out of 4 cancer patients.
Overall, older adults’ physical and mental health problems are interrelated, and each issue can result in other disorders that can adversely impact their quality of life.
4 Ways Older Adults Can Address Mental Health Issues
Here are four ways older adults can manage their mental health conditions:
As indicated above, battling cancer is one of life’s toughest challenges. However, stress puts additional physical and mental strain on older patients, making an already difficult situation even more challenging.
Older adults can implement stress-reduction techniques such as relaxation and breathing routines to help address their mental health situation and improve their quality of life.
Nutrition and Diet
Eating the right foods is one of the first steps to wellness and healthy living. Patients who take care of themselves by eating a balanced diet rich in healthy foods are more likely to continue to engage in their preferred pastimes and enjoy life.
Poor nutrition can cause lower energy levels. Individuals may feel tired and irritable, more prone to disease, and have a harder time recovering from illness.
A poor diet also affects a person’s quality of life, making it more challenging for older adults to recover from their conditions.
Have a Social Support Network
Older adults shouldn’t feel embarrassed when asking for help from their friends and relatives. The people in older adults’ support systems can ensure that they get to their doctor’s appointments or be there to listen to their worries.
The social support system of an older adult can consist of spouses, family members, and friends. Other types of social assistance include treatment and support groups. These caregivers must be aware of individuals’ requirements and concerns of their loved ones.
For example, caregivers must consider older persons’ willingness to talk about their conditions, the available treatments, and the prognosis.
A dedicated network of friends and family may significantly reduce emotional and mental stress in older adults.
Seek Professional Assistance and Treatment
Consulting experts who can deliver the appropriate treatment is another essential element in preserving older individuals’ emotional and mental health.
Doctors can help older adults feel less anxious by giving them more information about their conditions through counseling and medication.
For example, treating the underlying issue can reduce anxiety in cancer patients who experience discomfort from a hormone-producing tumor or adverse drug effects.
Professionals can also provide medication and psychotherapy, which are two different treatments for depression.
Pharmacotherapy involves using medications such as antidepressants. In contrast, psychotherapy may include breathing exercises, counseling, health education, hypnotherapy, and support groups.
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: As an experienced business consultant, Arnold Rogers has advised businesses across many industries in lead generation, customer experience, service development, and small business cash flow and financial management. He has experience handling diverse industries, from fast-moving consumer goods to business-to-business hardware retailers.
- The Top 10 Most Common Chronic Conditions in Older Adults https://www.ncoa.org/article/the-top-10-most-common-chronic-conditions-in-older-adults
- Consequences of chronic diseases and other limitations associated with old age – a scoping review https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12889-019-7762-5
- (n.d.). Depression. Cancer.org. Retrieved October 17, 2022, from https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/physical-side-effects/emotional-mood-changes/depression.html
- (n.d.). Emotional and Psychosocial Effects of Cancer. Cancerquest.org. Retrieved October 17, 2022, from https://www.cancerquest.org/patients/psychosocial-problems#footnoteref3_1hb6rwi
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