Many people hope to spend their golden years with financial security, solid relationships, and a contented outlook. While it would be nice if all of life’s problems steadily resolved as we aged, life is rarely so accommodating. The fact is, seniors often face just as many difficulties as younger people, and often with fewer resources. Even seniors with stable lives and good support networks can experience anxiety and depression. If you have an older loved one in your life, it’s essential to keep their mental health in mind.
We’ve written in-depth about the importance of mental health for older adults. But even with greater awareness, there’s a difference between knowing the symptoms and talking to a senior about their struggles.
Mental health is a complicated issue. We all need loving, supportive people to help us through rough times, but those conversations can be challenging to start. This May, Mental Health Awareness Month offers an opportunity to start that crucial conversation. Here are some simple yet powerful tools to guide your discussion if you’re concerned about an older loved one’s mental health.
5 Steps For Talking To An Older Loved One About Mental Health
1. Be Respectful.
The key to approaching any discussion of mental health with an older person is to do so from a place of respect. If your loved one isn’t ready to talk about their mental health, it’s important to honor their boundaries. You can start by letting them know that you’re thinking of them and that you’re available to talk whenever they’re ready.
2. Be Aware that Discussing Mental Health May Be Challenging for Seniors
Many older people grew up in a world that dismissed or demonized mental health issues. The stigma around mental illness remains strong in many seniors’ minds and can cause them to bury their feelings deep. Though medical and general knowledge of mental health has made huge leaps forward in recent decades, try to remember that your older loved ones might find it even more difficult to open up. Be reassuring, and be patient.
3. Ask Questions
An excellent place to start a discussion of a senior’s mental health is to ask questions. Rather than making guesses, statements, or even accusations about how your loved one feels, coming prepared with some questions can propel the conversation far more gently. However, as important as it is to ask thoughtful questions, the exchange shouldn’t sound like an interrogation. Be sure to give the conversation room to breathe.
4. Honesty Goes Both Ways
While there’s a fine line between sharing empathy and shifting the focus of the conversation to your problems, talking to your loved one about ways you have struggled with mental health is one way to ease into the conversation. Be sure you’re using your own experiences as an opening point to discuss your loved ones’ feelings rather than becoming the center of attention.
5. Stay Relaxed
You know better than anyone how your loved one would best like to handle a serious discussion. Some people might want a sensitive subject like mental health to be broached with care, while others respond better to bluntness or humor. There’s no right or wrong way to discuss mental health with a senior you love, so don’t be afraid to follow your instincts and knowledge of what they’ll respond to best. The most important thing is that you remain calm and understanding, rather than frustrated or angry.
Open Conversation Is Only The First Step
Once you’ve successfully talked to a senior about their mental health, the task doesn’t end there. Following up on how they’re doing and exploring any necessary treatment is paramount. Mental health is a lifelong concern, and checking in regularly will lay a strong foundation for openness in the future. Though you can’t always be there for your parent 24/7, having an in-home caregiver is a great way to alleviate some of your worries.
A caregiver can provide seniors with companionship during difficult emotional periods and monitor them for any changes in behavior or outlook. With a friendly face around the house to help with difficult chores and meal preparation, many seniors are free to spend their time pursuing joy and fulfillment in ways they felt too limited to before. An in-home caregiver can make a dramatic difference in the life of your older loved one, and we’d love to show you how.
About Generations Home Care
Generations Home Care personalized in-home care and support services help those recovering from illness, injury, or surgery, living with a chronic disease, or dealing with the natural process of aging. We help people live a fuller, healthier, and independent life.
Our caregivers are trained in the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommended COVID-19 safety precautions. We offer levels of care ranging from companionship, to respite for the primary family caregiver, to homemaking services, to assistance with activities of daily living, to Alzheimer’s and dementia care. Generations Home Care takes a holistic approach and emphasizes a consistent, client-centered plan of care.
Our Specialty Services Include:
- Rehab or hospital-to-home programs for safe discharge.
- Short-term post-operative care during recovery periods.
- Non-medical life management services for people with chronic conditions.
- Veteran’s connection to care program.
- Live-in services and couples care.
If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you, contact us today at 602-595-HOME (4663) or by filling out the contact form on our website.