Category: <span>Therapy</span>

Mental Health and the Aging Population

By year 2050, the proportion of the world’s population that is over 60 is expected to almost double from 12% to 22%, creating a greater necessity for recognizing and treating the special mental health challenges that this population faces. In fact, according to a 2021 study from the Institute on Medicine, approximately 1 in 5 people that are 65 years or older experience a mental health illness, substance abuse, or both. 

Within the United States alone, this statistic equates to almost 5.7 million older adults. These mental health challenges include; anxiety, cognitive impairment, and mood disorders such as bipolar disorder and depression while older men have one of the highest suicide rates of any age group.  

Mental health challenges are not a normal part in the aging process. Good mental health helps to contribute to an overall sense of well-being and is an integral part in having a good quality of life that can help older adults continue to thrive and enjoy life. While fluctuation in mood is normal, persistent changes in mood and other symptoms can be a sign of mental health distress.  

Depression Symptoms

Depression is one of the most prevalent mental health problems among older adults and can often lead to distress, difficulties in mental and social functioning, and even suicide. While increases in depressive symptoms have been seen in older adults, it doesn’t need to be a normal part of the aging process. 

In fact, more than 80% of cases in which an older adult is experiencing depression is treatable yet seniors are less likely to seek or receive help when experiencing these issues. This is why it is extremely important to understand and identify symptoms. 

Dementia 

Dementia is usually categorized as a progressive or chronic syndrome and entails a deterioration of memory often affecting older adults. In fact, it is estimated that around 50 million people worldwide are living with dementia throughout the world and is projected to increase to 82 million in 2030

Dementia usually has significant social and economic costs for those affected as well as the individual’s family. Because of this, emotional stress as a result of dementia can have a significant impact on the individual’s mental health. Due to this, mental health care is essential for both the individual with dementia and their support system. 

Risk Factors 

According to the WHO and the Geriatric Mental Health Foundation, many factors within an individual’s life can trigger the onset of mental health difficulties. Some of these risk factors include: 

 

  • Alcohol or substance abuse 
  • Long-term illness such as cancer
  • Loss of a Loved One 
  • Physical disability or loss of mobility 
  • Chronic Pain 
  • Isolation*
  • Medication Interactions 
  • Poor Diet 
  • Other Mental Health problems such as Alzheimer’s Disease 

 

*Isolation may be something more prevalent due to Covid-19 and older adults should be carefully monitored and checked in order to decrease the risk of severe mental health distress that may stem from Covid-19 and the resulting isolation. 

 

Symptoms of Mental Health Issues in Older Adults

While it is natural for some changes to occur throughout the aging process, it’s important for caregivers and those close to the older individual to be aware of the signs and symptoms that may be signaling that mental health issues are happening.  Some warning signs that may indicate mental health concerns are: 

  • Changes in appearance 
  • Continual confusion 
  • Changes in appetite 
  • Depressed mood lasting two or more weeks
  • Changes in social functioning such as social withdrawal
  • Changes in energy 
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or thoughts of sucide or self-harm 
  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies that used to be pleasurable

 

Treatment Strategies 

While it is important to understand the risk factors and signs associated with mental health problems within an aging adult population, knowing how to handle signs of mental health problems is equally important. Because of this, it is essential to train health professionals in providing care for older individuals, developing policies on extended care, and creating age-friendly services and settings. 

If you see a loved one exhibiting any of the symptoms or risk factors described above, call for a consultation with a healthcare professional. This will help get the best level of care possible for the individual facing mental health challenges.

Interventions 

Early diagnosis and treatment of mental, neurological, and substance abuse disorders in older adults is an essential part of care. Due to the wide variety of mental health issues that older adults can face, a combination of psychosocial interventions and medicines are typically used. 

In addition to this, social and community support is an important aspect in promoting this population’s mental and physical health. 

Educating, training, and supporting caregivers and healthcare providers on long-term care of older adults as well as supporting legislation surrounding mental health care for older adults provide support and care that can help promote a healthy and high quality of life for older adults. 

Take the time to check in with your aging loved one, especially during this time of social-distancing and don’t hesitate to seek help if you think there may be signs of mental distress happening.

 

How to Start Therapy

As recently as ten years ago, mental health wasn’t something that many people talked about. In fact, seeing a therapist was rarely something anyone would advertise in their life. However, as mental health becomes more normalized, seeking therapy is something that is progressively becoming a standard practice for many. 

Is therapy right for me? 

It can be difficult to know when going to get professional help is right for you, especially if you have never been to therapy before. Therapy is a vulnerable and private experience and starting can be overwhelming. 

Because of this, it may take some time and consideration to decide if you are ready to see a therapist. However, according to the American Psychological Association, therapy should be considered if you:

  • Thinking about or coping with the issue for more than an hour a day 
  • The issue pushes you to avoid others 
  • Your quality of life has decreased as a result of the issues you are experiencing
  • The issues are negatively affecting aspects of your life such as school, work, or relationships 
  • You have created coping mechanisms or habits to deal with the issue that are causing problems or a decrease in quality of life

If any of these things describe you or you’re feeling anxious, overwhelmed, or generally unhappy, it might be a sign that your internal ‘check engine’ light is on and seeing a mental health professional such as a therapist could help. 

Benefits of Therapy 

For those of us that don’t have a lot of experience with therapy, it could be seen as something that is for ‘crazy people’. However, that isn’t the case. In fact, a lot of successful people use psychotherapy as a tool to help manage stress, navigate life transitions, and gain skills to be successful and happy in life. 

In fact, research shows multiple benefits that therapy can have for individual. For instance, therapy can help you to better understand yourself, how you think and how you feel in situations better, give you tools to deal with difficulties in your life, and help you gain new insight and perspective. In addition to this, therapy also gives you a non-judgemental space to process and talk through emotions and difficult events.

How to Start

Finding a therapist, scheduling an appointment, and going to your first appointment can be a bit daunting. Because of this, it is important to understand and acknowledge any stigmas that you may be holding that are keeping you from starting this process in the first place. 

If you are worried about privacy or disclosure, it should be noted that therapy is confidential. This means that no one in your life is even needs to know that you are seeking therapy. Additionally, mental health professionals are bound by law to protect your privacy so you can be confident that what happens in session stays in the session. 

Finding a Good Fit

There are a lot of things to consider before making an appointment with a therapist. We recommend taking a look at the clinicians available here, knowing what the cost is and if your insurance will cover any of it, and what type of therapy you are looking for. 

It may also be helpful to come up with a list of questions for the therapist. This can help you get a better sense of what to expect from therapy and to help you feel more comfortable with starting this process. 

Some common questions to ask are: what experience does the therapist have working with your particular situation, what does a typical session look like, and kind of therapy does the clinician practice.    

What Happens if the Therapist I see isn’t a good fit? 

If, after your first session, you feel like the therapist isn’t what you are looking for, it is completely ok to try another therapist out. It isn’t uncommon to try another therapist and is completely fine to break off that relationship. 

While it may be uncomfortable to ‘break up’ with your therapist, it is important to push past those feelings in order to find something that will be beneficial to you. Let the current therapist know that it doesn’t seem like a good fit and the therapist or practice can help you find a clinician that may be a better fit for you. 

Remember, mental health professionals’ main goal is to help you get better so we don’t take it personally if you think someone else will be a better fit for your specific needs. 

Covid-19 and Mental Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Covid-19 has had a negative effect on mental health for a lot of people. Mental health includes our emotional, social, and psychological well-being and has the ability to affect how we think, how we feel, and what actions we take such as how we handle stress. This being said, as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to influence how we live our daily lives, it is important to understand its impacts on our mental health. 

 

Throughout the years, a large body of research has found that social isolation and loneliness have been linked to a decrease in mental and physical health. In fact, the former US Surgeon Vivek Murthy has recently brought this to the public’s attention, pointing out that social isolation and loneliness has the potential to reduce lifespan and increase risk for mental health issues and physical illnesses. 

 

However, the Covid-19 pandemic has created a need to be much more isolated and distanced than many of us have experienced in our lives. While it is important to follow the advice of healthcare professionals to practice safe and effective methods for fighting Covid-19 transmissions such as wearing a mask, practicing social distancing, and sheltering in place if advised, it can be difficult to fulfill basic needs, such as social interaction, necessary for mental and physical well-being.

 

According to health professionals, Covid-19 may be a part of our lives for longer than any of us would like. Because of this, it may be helpful to implement a self-care and wellness routine in order to take care of your mental and physical health for the long haul.

 

Eat Balanced and Nutritious Meals

 

At this point you have probably found that you are much more sedentary than you used to be in your life pre-Covid. With the majority of gyms still closed and as you’ve settled into your WFH routine, you may find it increasingly difficult to make healthy and balanced decisions at meal times. 

 

Because of this, it may be helpful to try out meal-prepping and mindful grocery shopping. This could include creating a list of ingredients and meals you want to make for the week so you’re more focused when you’re walking down the aisles at the grocery store.

 

While it may be tempting to order out food (and by all means order every once in a while to support local businesses in your community), try to limit take out as best you can and stick to foods that make you feel good. Nobody is the same, so find what works best for you and what makes you feel good and stick to that! 

 

On the same note, don’t forget to drink water! It’s easier to forget to drink water when your regular routine is disrupted but hydration is just as important for mental and physical well being as eating a healthy and balanced diet is. 

 

Get a Good Sleep Schedule Going 

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Practicing good sleep hygiene is integral to mental health and wellness. In fact, research conducted at Harvard University states that sleep problems increase the risk of developing depression and may actually be a risk factor associated with developing an anxiety disorder. 

 

In order to decrease your risk of developing mental health issues, focus on getting between seven to nine hours of sleep per night and going to bed at around the same time every night. While it’s tempting to want to binge-watch Netflix in bed, it may also be helpful to only use your bedroom for sleeping in order to associate that space with relaxation and rest.

 

Stay Connected 

Luckily, it’s 2021 and technology is advanced enough to bring us together in more ways than one. Despite not being able to go out like we used to, there are alternative ways to gain that social connection needed for your mental well-being. 

 

For instance, try planning a time when you and a friend or family member can video chat. While it can’t beat in-person social gatherings, talking to someone you love can help decrease the feeling of isolation and loneliness which will help increase your mental well-being. 

 

Even if video chat isn’t available to you, a quick phone call to someone in your support system can be a great boost for your mental health and overall mood. 

 

Find a Work/Life Balance that Works for You

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Before Covid-19, it was easier to be able to separate work from the rest of your life. However, as more people move to working remotely, that separation can get a little muddy which can lead to feelings of being overwhelmed and anxious. 

 

Because of this blurred divide between your work and home life, it may be helpful to separate your areas for work and play. Much like only using your bedroom for sleep, try sectioning off a particular area in your home that is solely dedicated to work. This way when the work day is over, it is easier to transition into home mode by physically moving yourself out of that space. 

 

Seek Help if you Feel Overwhelmed or Unsafe

 

Living through a global pandemic is hard and it is ok to not be ok. If you start feeling overwhelmed with feelings of sadness, depression, anxiety, or feel like you may want to harm yourself or others, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. 

 

Here is a list of sources that may be useful for you. In addition to this list, you can always reach out to our office and make an appointment (in-person or via telehealth) for psychotherapy and counseling. 

 

Resources:

 

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) – Free and confidential support for people in distress, 24/7.

National Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357) for treatment referral and information, 24/7.

Mental Health and the Aging Population

By year 2050, the proportion of the world’s population that is over 60 is expected to almost double from 12% to 22%, creating …

How to Start Therapy

As recently as ten years ago, mental health wasn’t something that many people talked about. In fact, seeing a therapist …

Covid-19 and Mental Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Covid-19 has had a negative effect on mental health for a lot …