Mental Health in Older Adults
Aging brings many challenges to everyone and these can sometimes produce symptoms of depression and anxiety. However, these are not a normal part of aging. It is important to recognize the signs and not just assume that sadness, worry or forgetfulness are a part of getting older. We know that older adults respond to treatment and can enjoy a better quality of life when problems are recognized and addressed.
We enjoy working with older adults as they continue to pursue meaningful activities while facing the inevitable challenges of aging. We are available to assist families who are dealing with age-related decline in older parents and other family members. In some cases, we are able to provide assessment and treatment to older adults who are living in facilities other than their homes.
Older adults may become depressed because of difficult transitions, such as -
loss of spouse, loved ones or friends
declining physical health
moving out of the family home
It is estimated that 80% of older adults have at least one chronic health condition, and 60-65% have 2 or more such conditions. These health problems reduce quality of life, and in some case may directly result in depression. Heart disease, Parkinson's disease and thyroid conditions, for example, may have a direct impact on emotional functioning.
Sometimes medications used to treat medical conditions also produce depression. These include, for example, some blood pressure medications, Beta-blockers and sleep aids. Assessment is needed to guarantee that the proper care is being provided.
Dementia, including Alzheimer's disease, is more than loss of memory. It also affects thinking, perception, ability to focus and problem-solving. People with dementia may become confused, restless, irritable, tearful and agitated. They are sometimes described by family members as having a very different personality, which is distressing to those who love them.
This is often thought to be a problem of younger people but, in fact, has increased in adults ages 50-59. Alcohol abuse is often not recognized in older adults who may be more isolated. The challenges of aging, including losses of health, work and friendships, put older adults at greater risk for substance abuse.
Ways to Help
Older adults are less likely than younger people to seek care for mental health concerns. However, when they do the outcome is often positive.
Some may prefer to speak with an individual counselor who can provide information, offer support and recommend specific interventions to address the individual concerns.
Others are more comfortable in a group setting, in which the focus is not on them alone. This allows them to interact with and learn from others who have similar concerns.
Caring for a loved one is difficult for family and friends, who may also benefit from being in a support group. If the stressors of caregiving continue to build, individual supportive counseling can provide some relief.
For more information:
A new group is being offered with the Older Adult Ministries of Blacksburg United Methodist Church to provide opportunities for discussion and support for anyone facing the challenges of aging.
Discussion topics will include adjusting to retirement, getting along with adult children, coping with physical health decline and worries about memory. We will also celebrate the joys and gifts of aging.
The group will meet the first Wednesday of each month at 1:30 in Room 212 of BUMC. Sequoia is open to anyone in the community.