Supporting Seniors’ Mental Health: How to Care for Your Older Loved Ones
A person of any age struggling with mental health conditions needs support both for their well-being and quality of life. However, as our loved ones age, they often face more complex challenges that require greater understanding, resources and assistance. We’re exploring some practical ways to provide support and care for older individuals facing mental health conditions.
Listen and Show Empathy
One of the best ways to support an older person with mental health conditions is to display compassion. Let them express their feelings and concerns, and listen without casting judgement or trying to offer solutions. Once they’ve shared, you can then support them with the ‘next steps’ if they have suggestions of things they’d like to try or ask you for your opinion.
By showing empathy and understanding, you create a safe space for people who are struggling and this will likely encourage them to open up about their struggles.
Encourage Professional Help
If you notice signs of mental health issues, encourage your loved ones to seek professional help. For example, mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety are treatable with a number of methods including therapy and medication. Importantly, the right support could significantly improve your loved one’s well-being.
However, they may be hesitant if they’re unfamiliar with what treatment would entail. Speak to them levelly and honestly about what the potential benefits of treatment could be and encourage them to ask questions – this will make them feel valued and will allow them to make educated choices about their next steps.
Seek Compensation for Traumatic Events
It might not be your first thought, but in some cases, mental health conditions in older individuals may be linked to traumatic events they experienced at some point in their lives (even decades ago). For instance, if your loved one previously worked in the medical, military, or construction fields, they may have been exposed to stressful situations. These situations can lead to conditions like PTSD.
Due to stigma or lack of awareness, potentially PTSD may have gone unnoticed, yet the impact can be devastating to deal with. Another point to consider is that if negligence or the actions of others contributed to these serious traumas, your loved one may be eligible to launch PTSD compensation claims. Perhaps they’ve never looked into this before or simply didn’t know this was an option. Here you can help by speaking with a solicitor and investigating further. This could lead to much-deserved monetary gain, which can assist with PTSD care and rehabilitation costs.
Promote a Healthy Lifestyle
Encouraging a healthy lifestyle can positively impact mental health. Engage in physical activities together, such as daily walks or light exercises suitable for their age and abilities. Additionally, focus on providing nutritious meals and sufficient hydration to support their overall well-being. While this is basic stuff, it’s actually at the root of a lot of worsening conditions, in that poor nutrition and lack of exercise directly impact mental health.
Social isolation can exacerbate mental health issues in older people. Stay connected with your loved ones and encourage them to maintain relationships with friends and family members. If possible, organise regular gatherings, encourage them to visit support groups or take them on outings to combat loneliness, one of the major contributors towards developing more serious conditions.
Educate Yourself about Mental Health
To provide better support, take the time to educate yourself about common mental health conditions affecting older individuals. Understand the symptoms, triggers, and available treatment options. This knowledge will enable you to recognise signs of distress and respond appropriately
Regular Check-Ins and Monitoring
Consistently check in on your older loved ones to monitor their mental health and overall well-being. Regular communication will help you detect any changes in behaviour or mood that may indicate a decline in mental health.
Supporting older people and grandparents struggling with mental health conditions requires a lot of empathy, understanding, and patience. If you’re younger, you might not be able to understand what they’re going through specifically in older age. By creating a supportive environment, encouraging professional help, and seeking compensation for their traumas where appropriate, we can provide the care and assistance needed for their well-being, but more importantly, give them a real quality of life worth having.