According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Association of Chronic Disease Directors (NACDD) in their recently issued brief, The State of Mental Health and Aging in America, “it is estimated that 20% of people age 55 years or older experience some type of mental health concern [such as anxiety, severe cognitive impairment and/or mood disorders].” From their findings, depression was named as the most prevalent mental health concern among older adults as it is commonly linked to emotional distress and suffering.
While aging naturally happens, it doesn’t come naturally to us. Just as is with any significant life change, one can experience a variety of different emotions as they age. Especially during Mental Health Awareness Month (which is observed every year in May), it is important that we practice some of the following tips for preserving our mental state:
- Be prepared – Try to be as proactive as possible when it comes to planning for your future (whether it be retirement, future care needs, financial planning, family planning etc). Seek professional guidance and assistance from key contacts such as Certified Financial Planners, Elder Law Attorneys/Estate Lawyers, Long Term Care Insurance Agents and more to develop a comprehensive plan that will set you up for success as you age!
- Don’t keep your feelings and emotions bottled up inside – Everyone gets down on themselves once in a while and, as life can be stressful, this is a very normal part of life in general- not just aging. If something is bothering you, talk about it. Whether you confide in friends, family, a church group or seek professional help, talking about your problems, concerns and feelings is extremely helpful when it comes to coping with these emotions and moving forward. Another helpful exercise is to “journal.” “Journaling” is an effective way to get your feelings out on paper and essentially release these feelings from within onto a page.
- Realize when you need help and ask for it – None of us are superheroes…we all need to ask for help sometimes and that is nothing to be ashamed of! Similar to the above, if you are feeling like you are “in a slump” and want to get back on track, seek professional help through a therapist, psychiatrist or other counselor who can best assist. Alternatively, maybe you are just unable to do what you used to for whatever reason (such as going downstairs to do laundry). That is totally OK and help is available! If family and/or friends are unable to help, ABC can – check out our Homemaking and Home Health Aide Services!
- Get a part-time job to keep busy or become involved in your community – For those in retirement, it can be fun at first but then gets monotonous over time. Everyone is difference as is each scenario but if you find yourself in retirement and feeling lonely whether it is because you live alone, your spouse is still working and out of the house most of the time etc., you may be looking to get a part-time job to get you out of the house- even if just for a few hours. If you wish to make some extra money, have a flexible schedule (working anywhere from a few hours a week to 40 hours a week) and enjoy caring for others, perhaps you might think of becoming a homemaker or caregiver for ABC and making a positive impact on the lives of seniors in your community. Click here to learn more about our employment opportunities! In addition, being a part of something “bigger than ourselves” is helpful for anyone of any age. This gives us a sense of pride, purpose and dignity. Getting involved in the community also helps us expand on our social network and, after all, you can never have too many friends!
- Make time for hobbies & socialization – Especially as people age, it is easy to lose motivation to do the things that once brought us much joy and leaving the house to meet friends or family can become more of a “chore” than it used to be. While we may need some extra convincing once in a while, it is super important to make time for hobbies to keep us mentally stimulated and enhance our mood just as it is vital to maintain the connections we have with others. Itching to get out of the house for a few hours? Think about going to your local senior center or Council on Aging and participating in some of the great programs they have to offer or join an Adult Day Health Center. Though closed during the height of the COVID pandemic, these institutions are starting to re-open and they are following all CDC guidelines!
- Stay active and get a good night’s sleep – Regular physical activity and exercise is beneficial for so many reasons but play a particular role in boosting self-esteem and confidence as well as promoting good sleep patterns. Not getting enough sleep can lead to poor concentration, irritability and a weakened immune system. Trouble sleeping can also lead to increased anxiety, stress and depression. Especially for those with mental health illness, physical activity can be as effective as effective as anti-depressant medication when it comes to treating depression. Even if you cannot participate in physical activity, treat mentally stimulating activity the same way. Things such as crossword puzzles, word searches, playing bridge or bingo, reading, and playing a musical instrument are great ways of giving your brain a good “workout.”
- Practice good eating and drinking habits – The older we get, the more vital a good and balanced diet becomes. It is not all about just looking our best…it is about getting the necessary nutrients our body needs to function properly and for our brain to stay sharp! You are encouraged to talk to your doctor or a nutritionist regarding your health and what kind of foods you should and should not be eating to be your healthiest self. Equally as important as a proper diet is staying hydrated- especially during the late spring and summer when the temperature heats up! Water is a great source of hydration but, on the particularly hot days, water containing electrolytes is ideal. It is best to limit your daily intake of sugary drinks, caffeine and alcohol as these can all have a negative effect on your well being.
Especially for those who may be feeling the sting of loneliness living alone and/or far away from family and friends, having a companion or homemaker can help combat depression by improving yours/your loved one’s spirits as well as provide a better quality of life. At ABC Home Healthcare Professionals, we are committed to life at home and our mission is to help all individuals who wish to age in place in the comfort of their own home do so gracefully and with dignity.
Click here for a list of ABC services!