Scientific studies have found that social isolation and loneliness leave people at risk for an array of mental conditions, including cognitive decline, anxiety, depression, and mood disorders. The elderly segment of the population who often find themselves unexpectedly alone are at an even higher risk. According to the CDC, it is estimated that 20% of people aged 55 or older experience some type of mental health concern. It is important to be able to identify mental health issues in the people around you; especially the elderly as their mental health issues often go undetected.
Depression in elder adults is often caused by a loss of social support due to the passing of a spouse or sibling, retirement, or the need to relocate from their hometown. It’s easy for symptoms of depression to get lost in all the changes in circumstance, and they may also go unnoticed as your loved ones’ lives slow down. As your loved ones’ age, their life becomes a revolving door of change. Grandkids begin having children of their own, once physically able bodies now become tired much faster and many of their daily responsibilities must be supported by family and friends. These changes are often accompanied by feelings of helplessness, sadness, and even guilt. It is important to continue to support your aging loved ones through significant life changes to ensure they know and feel their worth.
Here are some mindfulness steps you can do with your loved one and incorporate into your own life that will aid in keeping your mind and spirit healthy:
- Increase Optimism: Many seniors may have a diagnosis without a ‘cure’. It is important for those seniors and their caregivers to visualize the best possible outcome. Take time to visualize what is to come by yourself or with a loved one. To gain these positive effects of optimism, imagine how you will react, no matter how things progress.
- Practice Meaningfulness: Define what is meaningful to you. Then ask yourself how you can incorporate more of that into your daily life.
- Nurture Happiness: Identify what brings you down that you can cut out of your life? A relationship? A bad habit? What brings you joy that you can add more of? Can you put up photos of the people you love to remind you of those relationships and memories? Maybe make time to participate in a lost hoppy or call an old friend.
- Embrace Aging: Today’s culture promotes a story of aging that is all about decline and loss. Rather than accepting “the inevitable”, embrace the new stage of life you or your loved one are in and practice things that bring joy to it.
Many times, when we are depressed, it comes from ruminating on the past instead of looking forward to the future. What can you change right now to increase happiness and connectedness in your life? Help yourself and your loved ones by “checking in”. Find out how they are really doing and let them know you are present and willing to be the support they need. If they appear more anxious or withdrawn than normal, take time to invest in their life, even if just for a moment. Encourage them to take personal steps to strengthen their mental health and recognize when they may need help beyond what they or their loved ones can provide. Home Care Assistance Caregivers are equipped to support you or your loved one to ensure all physical, emotional, and spiritual needs are being well cared for. By changing our attitudes and actions we can extend our lifespans and health-spans. Start small and start today. Make little shifts to increase optimism, find meaning, nurture happiness, and embrace aging.