May is Mental Health Awareness Month. During the past few years, we have all learned more about the importance of both mental and physical health. However, the impact of mental health on aging adults can sometimes get lost in the shuffle.
Some Worrisome Facts
The CDC has reported 20% of people aged 55 years or older experience some type of mental health concern. The most common conditions are anxiety, severe cognitive impairment, and mood disorders (such as depression or bipolar). Sadly, mental health issues are often a factor in suicide.
Suicide Among Older Adults
Sadly, older men have the highest suicide rate of any group. One common reason is loneliness. This can come while struggling with feelings of isolation after the death of a spouse or grief of losing other close family and friends. Research has shown bereavement can often trigger physical or mental health illnesses.
Chronic diseases, losing ability for favorite hobbies and loss of independence can also cause depression. Transitions that may be easier for younger adults can become more difficult as we age.
What are the Warning Signs of Mental Health Issues?
- Change in sleeping patterns — not enough sleep or oversleeping
- High stress levels or constant worrying
- Suicidal thoughts
- Trouble feeling positive emotions
- Unusual ideas or behaviors
- A need or dependence on drugs and alcohol
- Feeling hopeless or giving up
- Constant headaches and pain
- Anger and irritability
- Doing high-risk activities
How can seniors improve their mental health?
It is suggested seniors seek out as much human contact as possible. Finding proper medical and psychiatric care are also important. In addition, balanced meals, adequate sleep and exercise all influence one’s mental health.
Where can you turn for help?
Nicole Lott, LMSW of Hurley Elder Care Law says, “Social isolation is a major health concern for adults over the age of 65. Fortunately, there are programs to support our older adults in the community. “
She adds, “by connecting with a social worker or mental health professional you can be led to the resources that may best fit you and your loved ones needs. Asking for help is one of the best things we can do as advocates for mental health awareness. ‘
The Department of Human Services Division of Aging Services can provide mental health resources. The Georgia Crisis & Access Line (GCAL) 1-800-715-4225 is staffed by counselors who can connect callers with many services and crisis help.
The Atlanta Regional Commission’s Empowerline can also provide beneficial resources.
Hurley Elder Care Law offers a unique Life Care Planning model which can assist with the challenges of your family’s current and future needs. Our practice incorporates legal planning techniques with changing physical, psychological and financial needs. Call us at 404-843-0121 to find out how we can help.
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