Older Adult Mental Health: What To Know

“How are you feeling?” It’s a question we ask friends, family, coworkers. But when was the last time you asked yourself? With each new phase of life, we leave behind some old anxieties and fears and encounter some new ones. Older adult mental health can be impacted by stressors like chronic illness, health struggles, financial insecurity, the death of loved ones, and more, but it’s important to know you’re not alone.

So we ask again–how are you feeling? Do you have things from the past weighing on your mind, or concerns about the future? It’s rare that a person doesn’t, and improperly managed stress can manifest physically. Insomnia, headaches, digestive issues, or chronic fatigue can be signs your body needs you to really examine how you are feeling.

Older Adult Mental Health & Managing Stress

There is no “solution” for stress. Some stressors might be able to be managed, but most are out of our control, particularly through the aging process, where questions of mortality, health, and legacy become front of mind. While we cannot “solve” stress, we can process emotions and work through our thoughts. And all it takes is a bit of talking. Studies have shown that simply talking about our problems and sharing our negative emotions with someone we trust can be profoundly healing.

There are many options for you to find someone to talk about your older adult mental health needs:

Your Loved Ones: The best support might be closest to home. Surrounding yourself with your loved ones provides emotional support, prevents feelings of isolation, and builds a network of people who you can be open with about your feelings. Your loved ones might also be able to alleviate some burdens.

Where: Your family, friends, faith groups, local community centers, and neighbors are just a few places to find support from loved ones.

Journaling: Believe it or not, writing down your thoughts and feelings can be a great outlet for stress or anxiety. A daily journal is a way to organize and process your feelings and concerns. If you are a private person who would prefer not to share your emotions with others, this is a great place to start.

Where: Any craft or stationery store! There are also journals available with specific prompts for helping process stress, grief, or sadness.

Support Groups: Did you know there are support groups specifically for older adult mental health needs? Finding a group for seniors can provide you with a place to discuss the emotions that come with the aging process with a group that prioritizes older adult mental health. There are also support groups for those struggling with chronic illnesses, depression, grief, and many other factors of life. Support groups are usually moderated by a licensed counselor, who guides open, honest, and completely private discussions. You can open up comfortably, knowing what you say does not leave the room.

Where: Faith groups, community centers, veterans associations, internet searches, or your primary care physician can help you locate a support group specific to your needs.

Therapists & Counselors:  Therapists and counselors are experts on topics such as depression in older adults, coping with the factors of aging, and more. If you are looking for a place to open up anonymously and privately in a one-on-one capacity, counseling and therapy provide a safe space to do so. Trained and licensed therapists and counselors will guide your discussions about your stress, help identify your stressors, and teach you coping mechanisms and stress-reducing strategies. If you are struggling to have an honest discussion with a spouse or family member, therapists and counselors will also provide moderated family or marital counseling.

Where: Websites like Counselors.org, Psychology Today, and the National Bureau of Certified Counselors can help you locate a certified counselor or therapist near you. Your primary care physician can also help point you towards a provider in your network. You can also receive online therapy through sites like TalkSpace or BetterHelp.

Psychiatrists: While psychiatry falls under the umbrella of therapy, it is an important enough distinction to warrant its own section. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor, and therefore able to prescribe medication. If your stress causes you to develop feelings of depression or anxiety, your therapist or counselor may recommend a psychiatric evaluation. A psychiatrist can provide you with medication which, in conjunction with therapy, can help you get back to feeling like yourself again. There is no stigma in being prescribed medication for your mental health–one in six Americans use antidepressants, anxiety relievers, or antipsychotics.

Where: Your therapist, counselor, or general practitioner can provide recommendations of trusted psychiatrists within your network.

Caring For Your Mental Health

Just as it becomes increasingly important to care for our physical health throughout the aging process, caring for our mental health helps us stay sharp, focused, and happy. Neglecting your own mental health, and letting stressors pile up, can lead to physical and emotional problems in the long term. Trying out one, or several, of the above methods for managing stress can help you stay healthy. For assistance finding older adult mental health resources that support your aging in place needs, please visit our DwellAssured-Certified Service Provider Network

Sources:

  • Psychology Today
  • Healthline
  • Scientific American

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