Mental health is equally as important as physical health.
The U.S. Surgeon General once defined mental health as “the successful performance of mental function, resulting in productive activities, fulfilling relationships with other people, and providing the ability to adapt to change and cope with adversity.” This holds true for everyone – including the elderly. Sadly, the lack these activities and stimuli leads to lower quality of life and poor mental health.
Deteriorating mental health can affect financial stability, put strain on families, open up the possibility for criminal victimization, and have a negative impact on physical well-being. Unfortunately, mental health is an area doctors avoid when treating their elderly patients. This implies that depression is normal in older patients.
Jarring Mental Health Trends in the Elderly
The rate of suicide among the elderly is four times the national average. Additionally, seventy-five percent of those who committed suicide visited their primary care doctor within the previous month.
The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, recently published a study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health. This study found that doctors do not spend enough time discussing mental health with elderly patients. Results also suggested that doctors “need more support to identify, treat and refer their patients to mental health specialists.”
How to Spot Depression
Caregivers and family members of the elderly should watch for signs of mental illness. These include:
- Sadness or depression lasting longer than two weeks
- Loss of interest in hobbies or social activities
- Unexplained decrease in energy or changes in sleep patterns
- Difficulties with concentration or decision-making
- Change in appetite or changes in weight
- Memory loss, especially short-term memory
- Feelings of unimportance, misplaced guilt or thoughts of suicide
- Unexplainable physical setbacks such as aches, constipation, etc.
- Changes in appearance or problems taking care of the home
- Struggles with money or working with numbers
Given the facts, it stands to reason that further geriatrics training should be required of all doctors and caregivers. This would help combat the lack of mental health treatments available to the elderly. Tackling depression among the elderly could improve overall wellbeing. By providing improved care medical professionals could also enhance the personal independence and maintenance of mental well-being among the elderly population.
Caregivers and family members can protect the mental health of older adults by being watchful for the symptoms and advocating for quality care. Therapy, medications and lifestyle changes can all be effective in treating mental illness, allowing older adults to live longer, fuller lives.
We Can Help
DYA puts a premium on personalized services and attention and conducts regular training classes for all their home health aides regarding many conditions endemic to the elderly. For more information about David York Agency’s qualified, compassionate caregivers, contact us at 718.376.7755. A free phone consultation can help you decide what services might be best to provide you and your loved one with the assistance you need.