How to Help Seniors Prioritise Their Mental Health

When you are the caretaker of a senior, ensuring that they are as healthy and happy as possible is your top priority. However, it can be easy to become so fixated on your loved one’s physical health needs that you forget about their mental wellness.

This can be a consequential error, not only because you want your loved one to enjoy the highest quality of life possible, but also because mental health challenges can take a devastating toll on your loved one’s physical health. Nevertheless, in the face of the significant challenges that often accompany ageing, getting seniors to prioritise their mental health can be difficult. We’ll show you some important ways you and the senior you love can give their mental well-being the time and attention it deserves.

Recognise the Signs

Let’s face it: ageing is not for the faint of heart. As you grow older, you’re not only more likely to experience a decline in your physical health and ability to function, but you may also experience a range of losses. These losses can be highly detrimental to your emotional well-being, from the death of a spouse to the loss of physical independence.

It’s little wonder, then, that seniors are at particularly high risk for developing various forms of mental illness, including depression, anxiety, and even post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Nevertheless, mental illness among the aged remains little understood or acknowledged.

Because of this, the signs that your loved one may be struggling can be difficult to detect. Mental health challenges may not manifest with the same behavioural changes that might be expected in younger persons.

Rather, you may notice subtle physical cues, such as a decrease in appetite, frequent headaches, restlessness, or sleeping too much or too little. Your loved one may also complain of more aches and pains than usual. They may choose not to attend family functions or social events they once enjoyed on the grounds that they simply don’t feel up to going.

All of these may indicate not a physical health problem but a mental health issue that needs to be addressed before it undermines your loved one’s quality of life and threatens their physical health. Indeed, without prompt and consistent care, mental illnesses in seniors may substantially increase their risk of developing life-threatening illnesses, such as heart and kidney disease and some forms of cancer.

Rejoining the World

Despite the risks that mental illness can pose to your senior’s health and quality of life, there are many ways to help them nurture their psychological wellness. One of the most important of these strategies is simply to help them re-engage with the world. This is because seniors often find themselves isolated, especially if they are retired and have health issues or mobility challenges.

The COVID-19 pandemic, of course, only exacerbated this issue, compelling everybody to shelter at home, missing out not only on the activities they love but also on crucial time spent with friends and family.

The sad truth is that loneliness in seniors can kill, So if you want to help your loved one regain, or maintain, their mental health, then encourage them to be as active as possible. Take them to sporting events, for instance, or take up a gentle athletic activity that they can regularly engage in, such as golf or bowling.

The mere act of getting outside and getting active can do wonders for your loved one, both physically and mentally.

Use Colour to Create an Uplifting Environment

Another highly effective way to help seniors nurture their mental health is by creating a mood-enhancing environment through colour therapy. Research is increasingly showing the significant psychological benefits of colour in your physical environment. For instance, painting your loved one’s bedroom a soothing shade of blue or green can have a calming effect, especially if they’re experiencing anxiety.

Similarly, if your loved one is experiencing depression, infusing the home with vibrant hues, such as sunshiny yellows, can help to uplift and energise.

Needing to Be Needed

A particularly challenging aspect of getting older for many seniors is the feeling that they’re just not needed like they once were. After all, the children are likely grown and out of the house and they may have already retired from careers they devoted their entire lives to.

This can leave many seniors feeling unfulfilled and bereft of purpose. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way. Adopting a pet, for example, can readily fill the void, giving seniors unconditional love and a sense of purpose, a reminder of their being needed and wanted, no matter what challenges life may bring.

Best of all, when a senior has a fur baby to attend to, they’re almost inevitably going to be more socially engaged. Little Fido and Fifi need their food and toys and supplies, after all, and Spot needs his daily walks, not to mention some time spent exercising at the dog park. All of these provide enjoyable opportunities for seniors to get out of the house, be active, and socialise.

The Takeaway

When someone you love and care for is ageing, it’s easy to prioritise their physical health over their emotional well-being. The reality, however, is that physical and mental health go hand-in-hand. For that reason, it’s imperative that you and your loved one make mental health a top priority.

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