Understand Mental Health Issues In The Elderly Population: Learn To Be Kind

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The stigma attached to mental health needs attention. If you believe that happiness should be permanent, you are living under an illusion. Happiness and sadness are fleeting. Your loved one is not a coward if they are unable to deal with loneliness, emptiness and darkness of life. 

At times, loving someone with mental health problems becomes a burden. Falling into the trap of mental health issues is living a life with a vicious cycle. If your grandfather is suffering from depression or Alzheimer’s or PTSD, then, your kindness will do wonders for his recovery. Mental conditions are as pivotal as physical conditions.

“Sanity remains defined simply by the ability to cope with insane conditions”, Ana Castillo

What Is The Link Between Mental Health And Old Age?

There are a few psychological ailments that elderly population face more than youngsters, but it is not entirely true that psychological problems manifest only at an old age. There is no age group for those who suffer from psychosis or anxiety disorders. It can happen at any age and none–we repeat–should suffer in silence. Seek help if you need it. Do not be embarrassed. The brain is as much part of your body as your liver.

It is believed that once people grow old, their coping mechanism becomes impeccable. We forget that they, too, can suffer from behavioural and emotional problems. The World Health Organisation has revealed that the elderly population is prone to depression and dementia. There is no visible link between mental health issues and old age. It can happen to anybody at any phase of life.

 What Mental Health Issues Are Common In The Elderly Population?

1. Dementia And Old Age

It is a syndrome that leads to the impairment of memory and behavior. It ultimately leads to an inability to perform a daily routine. Thinking gets convoluted and memory weakens. According to the WHO, every aged person need not face dementia, but, at the same time, it is common in senior citizens.

2. Causes Of Dementia In The Elderly Population

a. Alzheimer’s: It is also known as “senile dementia”. It is a progressive syndrome that affects memory and other cognitive functions. Brain cells begin to degenerate and deteriorate to a point that cells die. Unfortunately, there is no absolute cure for this.

b. Chronic High Blood Pressure: It can lead to fatal brain strokes, which ultimately leads to memory loss, paralysis and confusion.

c. Parkinson’s Disease: If the nerve cells in your brain get damaged, then the level of a chemical called dopamine decreases. It can lead to tremors, stiffness in muscles and complete loss of balance in the elderly population.

d. Huntington’s Disease: It leads to movement problems and psychiatric and cognitive symptoms. These can be treated with the help of therapy – talk therapy and physiotherapy. Also, there are certain drugs to help in managing this illness.

Depression And Old Age

 “Monsters like depression live in the dark, and the way to turn on the light is by talking about it.”

Shaheen Bhatt, I’ve Never Been (Un) Happier

Depression robs you off the ability to do the chores with ease. Sadness is tailored for you so that your suffering seems the most deadly to you.

Seven percent of the elderly population suffers from clinical depression. It obliterates hope and self-esteem. Older people who suffer from mental health issues undergo a deep-rooted pain that none can understand. Depression in old age often goes untreated and misunderstood.

Anxiety And Old Age

There is hardly any activity after people reach a certain age (65-70). So, over-thinking becomes a sort of pastime for the elderly population. It is one of the mental health issues faced by this age group.

“Untreated anxiety can lead to cognitive impairment, disability, poor physical health, and a poor quality of life. Fortunately, anxiety is treatable with prescription drugs and therapy.” – direct quote from the Geriatric Mental Health Foundation.

Why Should The Elderly Population Be Concerned About Anxiety?

Over-thinking leads to worry, worry leads to stress and stress leads to anxiety. Anxiety and depression in older adults go hand in hand. These illnesses disrupt the stereotypical normalcy of their lives. 

Being dependent on the family is already a matter of hesitation for the elderly population. So, when they realize that their mental health has deteriorated, they keep quiet because of the fear of being a burden, a piece of baggage.

Thus, engaging in fun activities is beneficial for a calm and tranquilized mental state of elderly citizens.

Strategies To Care For The Mental Health Issues Of The Elderly Population

  • Be well informed about mental illness. Read about the treatment and symptoms of the problem through books, online forums and legitimate websites.
  • Encourage the aged people to stay active, that is, to not age passively. They must remain involved in activities like gardening (go find out about the best gardening tools for elderly people), reading, playing the piano, etc. There is so much to explore even in old age.
  • Don’t take self-harm or suicide lightly. You will never know when everything goes black.
  • Encourage them to talk about their problems without any fear. Often, people feel judged if they lay bare their vulnerabilities. Take measures to not let that happen.
  • Enable them to understand the importance of healthy communication. Venting out negativity is effective.
  • Be polite while talking to them but it doesn’t mean you can’t be honest with them
  • Don’t confront them; rather, be as gentle, kind and non-threatening as you can.

What mental health issues are common in the elderly? – Conclusion

Elderly people might put on a brave face and look happy, but their inner demons keep them distraught. Look beyond what people say. Look for signs that indicate an aged person is mentally unwell. Help them grow (growth is necessary at all ages), and help them face their fears. Be kind and remain a companion in the times of insanity.

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