National Mental Health Awareness Month: Strategies to Help Seniors

shschesterfieldcountyva 15 May 2023

May is National Mental Health Awareness MonthWe often hear about ways to strengthen physical health, but taking steps to improve and nurture mental wellbeing is just as important. May is National Mental Health Awareness month, so what better time for Seniors Helping Seniors® in-home care services to raise awareness about the importance of mental health and offer a few ways seniors can boost theirs.

What Is Mental Health?

The term “mental health” encompasses emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects several aspects of daily life, including how we think, feel, and act, as well as one’s ability to handle stress, relate to others, and make choices.  

When it comes to seniors, many deal with afflictions like depression, anxiety, isolation, and dementia. In fact, at least one in four older adults experiences some mental disorder like the ones listed. 

Spotting a mental health issue in a senior loved one can be tough – symptoms often seem like ordinary reactions to a bad day or tough week. Though they vary by condition and from person to person, warning signs might include:

  • Significant changes in mood, energy level, or appetite
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Amplified worry and stress
  • Unwarranted anger, irritability, or aggression

If you notice persistent sadness, worries, sleep issues, and confusion in yourself or a family member, it’s time to consult a health care professional. Symptoms that last more than a couple weeks can indicate a more serious problem.

The good news is that there are plenty of ways to boost mental health right from the comfort of home. If you or a loved one is feeling low, try a few of the following suggestions to improve mental wellbeing.

Talk It Out

Talking about a problem or worry helps release pent-up feelings and often aids in finding a resolution. However, many people find it difficult to share intimate emotions. It’s important to talk to someone you trust. This person could be a good friend, family member, or even a Seniors Helping Seniors® caregiver.

If you or a senior family member aren’t comfortable talking to someone familiar, consider discussing troubles with a counselor. There are lots of options for in-person, virtual, and anonymous therapy.

Adopt A Pet!

Pets provide companionship and unconditional love, which are automatic mood boosters. However, research shows that pets offer their human counterparts a lot more than that! For example:

  • People with pets experience depression less often than those without pets.
  • Pet owners have lower blood pressure and cortisol levels in stressful situations than people who don’t own pets.
  • Playing with a pet elevates serotonin and dopamine levels, leaving the person feeling calmer and more relaxed.
  • Animals have also been shown to reduce loneliness.

In addition, they offer owners a sense of purpose. Having an animal to care for motivates seniors to perform certain duties every day, like feeding, walking, or bathing their pet, which goes a long way in improving mental wellbeing.

Did you know that Seniors Helping Seniors® caregivers help our clients care for their pets? That’s right! Whether you or your special senior already have a four-legged companion or are thinking about adding one to the family, they can help ensure all its needs are met.

P.S. – Though dogs and cats are some of the most common house pets, animals like rabbits, fish, birds, and even reptiles provide many of the same mental benefits.

Stay Connected for Mental Health

Spending time with loved ones is another way to address mental health and is especially important in combating feelings of loneliness and isolation. Research shows that seniors who regularly engage with others are also less likely to feel depressed, anxious, and stressed.

Providing companionship is one of the tenets of our mission at Seniors Helping Seniors® in-home care services. Our caregivers, who are seniors themselves, understand how important it is for our clients to stay engaged and are always available for a friendly and meaningful chat.

They can also help you or your loved one build a broader social circle or get involved in the community. Here are a few ways to up social engagement:

  • Volunteer at organizations within the community, like local nonprofits or churches.
  • Join interest-based groups and clubs. Find ones based on hobbies, fitness, or learning a new skill.
  • When it’s not possible to meet in person, use video chatting technology to connect with loved ones.

Spend some time focusing on your or your senior loved one’s mental health this month. In addition to companionship, Seniors Helping Seniors® caregivers assist with other aspects that can decrease the worry and mental stress seniors sometimes feel – like finding transportation and help with daily tasks. It’s our goal to keep the seniors we serve feeling their best in all aspects of life. We’d love to discuss how we can help you or your special senior do the same!

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