How to Stay Aware of Mental Health Concerns in Seniors

Learn how to keep track of mental health concerns in seniors you love.

The isolation and fear that COVID-19 has brought about has had an enormous impact on the mental health and wellbeing of older adults. In a recent Kaiser Family Foundation poll, nearly 50% of the older adults surveyed shared that their stress and worry level has adversely affected their own health. As a result, it’s more important than ever to keep frequent and regular contact with the seniors in your life and to be aware of any changes or red flags that could point to mental health concerns in seniors.

Psychiatrist Judith Feld, MD, MPH, states, “If a senior usually really enjoys a call with a grandchild, for example, but that seems to have changed, maybe you need to ask more questions, such as, ‘How can we be of help?’”

There are other warning signs of mental health concerns in seniors to watch for as well, such as sluggishness, changes in sleeping or appetite, and complaints about pain, which can be one of the main symptoms of senior depression. Pay attention to anything that is out of character for the seniors you love.

Also, remember that depression is not an inevitable fact of aging. It is a serious – but treatable – condition. 

Here are some tips to help effectively determine a senior’s mental state:

  • Seeing and talking with the grandchildren on Zoom is great for boosting an elderly loved one’s mood, but be sure to allow for some one-on-one time for the two of you to talk, without the presence of the kids. 
  • Keep your conversation organic and natural, so you don’t come across as interrogating. Try to use statements like, “Tell me what’s new in your life,” to encourage a senior to open up. This is often much more effective than, “Tell me what your doctor had to say at your last appointment.” The aim is to show that you are caring but not condescending, never parenting your parents.
  • Try to determine if substance abuse could be a factor. A rise in alcohol consumption in the midst of the pandemic began happening in people of all ages, and could be especially harmful if there are interactions with the medications the senior is taking.
  • Pay close attention to what you can observe in the background of your video chats for any further clues. For instance, see whether or not the house looks tidy and well maintained, and if there are any personal hygiene concerns, like unkempt, unwashed hair, for example.

If you suspect depression or any other mental health concerns in seniors you love, reach out to the physician immediately. Because you are most familiar with the older person, you are in a position to pick up on cues that the doctor may be missing during routine appointments, and it’s vital to share your concerns.

You can also reach out to Harmony Home Health & Hospice for further assistance. We can keep watch for any changes in condition when you’re not able to be there in person, and we offer a wide variety of customized services to boost a senior’s socialization and quality of life at home. Give us a call at 1-877-I-NEED-CARE, or contact us online to find out more about our Provo home care and care in the surrounding communities.