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Keeping track of your relative’s mental health after lockdown

Supporting older people's mental health

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way that the world has been functioning over the past few months. As we try to head out of lockdown and get our lives back to some semblance of ‘normal’, it is just as important that we look out for our older family and friends as much as when we were all confined to our homes.

Although lockdown has been very challenging for many people, it is important to remember that coming out of lockdown can also have an effect on our mental health, especially for those who are most vulnerable. We all have a duty to look after our loved ones and help them with their mental health challenges.

According to  the carer organisation Helping Hands, 1 in 4 people are expected to experience problems with their mental health in the UK each year – in a prediction made before the Coronavirus pandemic had even begun. This is especially prevalent in older people, and with this in mind, here are some ways that you can help to keep track of your parent’s mental health as we come out of lockdown.

Talk and communicate

Talking and communicating about how we feel about situations is a good way to get worries off our chests, as well as draw people’s attention to any potential mental health issues. It doesn’t have to be a long conversation, but even a short chat can help to make people feel connected, less lonely and, consequently, healthier. A problem shared is a problem halved, as they say.

Although social distancing rules still apply, the changes in guidelines mean that you can now meet in a range of spaces which can make communication easier. If this isn’t possible, then telephone or online conversations that we have become so used to recently can also be beneficial.

One step at a time

The truth about coming out of lockdown is that everybody will feel comfortable emerging at different speeds. It is imperative, especially with older or more vulnerable people, that you allow them to change their routine at a pace that they are comfortable with, one step at a time. Don’t put pressure on them to do things that they aren’t comfortable with, but also try to support them as they do make small changes to their life.

As we leave lockdown, it is important to try to establish a new routine. It should still involve social distancing and awareness that the virus is still circulating, but also allow you and your loved ones to begin to get back to ‘normal’. This includes reiterating the importance of handwashing, using masks, and trying to avoid the use of public transport.

Check that your relative is comfortable with each stage of the easing of lockdown and try to ensure that they are aware of what they should be doing to be able to take care of themselves.

Fending off mental health problems

There are a number of things that can be done to help to keep mental health problems at bay, especially during this time. These can include:

  • Getting regular exercise – even if it is inside the house, sitting down or walking up and down the stairs
  • Spending time outside, even for a short amount of time each day
  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Talking to friends and family members
  • Engaging in hobbies or crafts
  • Using technology to aid in communication

Look out for the signs

Just as was the case during lockdown, it is essential to be aware of the signs that your loved one might be struggling with their mental health. If you notice that they might be having some issues, it is important that you get help for them as soon as possible.

Some of these signs include:

  • Changes in sleeping patterns
  • Changes in eating patterns
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Lack of motivation
  • Sudden changes in mood
  • A worsening of physical health or chronic health problems

If these signs start ringing alarm bells you might want to contact your relative’s GP, or even the Samaritans on 116 123, 24 hours a day.

Looking after the mental health of our loved ones has been critical during lockdown. It is also something that we should be acutely aware of as we begin to come out of lockdown, especially for  the most vulnerable. It is vital to remember that there is always help available and to seek it if you feel it necessary.

Written by Imogen Clarke

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels.

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