The Importance of Mental Health Wellness in Seniors

When we think about healthy aging, we often think first of physical well-being. Exercising, walking, stretching, they all play an important part in keeping us in good health.

But it’s not just the physical aspect of our health we need to be cognizant of – taking care of mental health is just as important as the physical part.

That’s especially true during the era of COVID-19, when social distancing and restrictions around gatherings can cause feelings of isolation. But even beyond the pandemic, ensuring that we’re in touch with our mental and emotional well-being is vital to a fulfilling, enriching life.

A Dangerous Cycle

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 20% of people ages 55 or older experience a mental health concern. In addition, the CDC also notes that adults 65 or older are more likely than adults between the ages of 50–64 to report that they “rarely” or “never” receive the social and emotional support they need.

These mental health concerns can manifest in a variety of ways, including depression, anxiety and cognitive impairment. From there, seniors often withdraw socially, relationships become frayed or distant, and then that causes depression or anxiety to deepen, perpetuating a cycle.

Warning Signs

Identifying warning signs and seeking intervention is the first step in making sure it doesn’t get to that point. Seeing those signs is a team effort – whether it’s identifying them within yourself, a loved one, or if you’re a caregiver to a senior, understanding and noticing even subtle changes can be critical.

While it might be more difficult than usual in an era of Zoom calls and FaceTime chats, it’s still important to note anything that gives you pause when talking to someone. And if patterns emerge over weeks or months, intervention will be critical.

Among the most common signs of mental health concerns in seniors are:

  • Withdrawal from social connections or activities
  • Mood/temperament changes
  • Changes in appearance, or poor grooming and hygiene
  • Confusion, disorientation, memory loss
  • Changes in appetite/diet – significant weight gain or loss
  • Physical problems with no clear explanation
  • Fatigue/difficulty sleeping

Staying Connected

Within our Prestige communities, we are still running activities in a safe, responsible manner, following the proper protocols. Our Celebrations program remains a vital part of helping our residents remain healthy, engaged with life, and connected with others – with an emphasis on maintaining strong mental health.

Many of our residents continue to enjoy hallway bingo, beanbag baseball, gardening, terrarium building, crafts, door-to-door happy hour, courtyard and hallway concerts and more! If you or a loved one is a Prestige resident, check in with our team to find out what’s on tap for the next few days and weeks – having something meaningful to the individual to look forward to is an important aspect of mental health.

Physical health is also closely aligned with mental health – staying active and fit physically pays dividends for your mood. Prestige is currently running its Energize Exercise program in a one-on-one setting, featuring three levels:

  • Activate: Stretch & Strength Class
  • Invigorate: Strength & Balance Class
  • Energize: Brain & Body Class

We also continue to hold fall reduction classes, which are also individual at the moment, and run cognitive exercises to keep people engaged intellectually. Talk to a team member to see what options are available!

Mental Health Key In Memory Care

In our memory care communities, our award-winning Expressions program continues to tend to both the physical and mental health needs of our residents living with dementia. Mental health care is a pillar of our Expressions program, as we keep our residents engaged and fulfilled with a wide-ranging array of initiatives that cover all aspects of their emotional needs.

Furthermore, our team is trained to look for cues and warning signs that a resident might be struggling with their mental health and can intervene as necessary.

COVID Concerns

Let’s be honest – 2020 was a tough year. The fear and stress surrounding COVID-19 had a tangible impact on the mental health of millions of people of all ages in the country.

It could be especially fraught for seniors. As seniors’ communities across the country had to close residences to visitors, many people have gone a year without seeing loved ones in person.

While vaccines are being administered and hope is on hand, even when COVID comes under control and we can reclaim a sense of normalcy in our lives, it won’t change the fact that mental health is something everyone needs to examine in themselves and their loved ones.

Seeking Help

It’s important to know that you’re not alone. Awareness surrounding mental health grows every year, and there is no shame or stigma in seeking help. With 20% of seniors experiencing mental illness, even if you don’t think you know anyone who’s dealing with mental health concerns, it’s prevalent enough that you probably do.

To that end, there are resources available. If you or a loved one is currently a resident with Prestige, our staff is available to help guide you to professionals who can start you towards a path of treatment.

Outside of Prestige, talking to your doctor is an important first step. With aging comes new mental health stressors and risk factors – which could be the beginning of a new issue or exacerbate an existing concern.

Furthermore, you or your loved one can work through your insurance provider to find a therapist or counselor in-network you can begin talking to. In the age of COVID, many mental health professionals conduct virtual sessions via Zoom. You can remain safe in your home or residence and still seek help.

Barring everything else, or if the situation is critical, there are free 24/7 hotlines you can call for help: the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-TALK (8255), and they are staffed by trained crisis workers.

In addition, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) can also be reached at anytime at 1-877-SAMHSA7 (1-877-726-4727).

Whatever you need to do for yourself or your loved one, it’s always a good time to make the first move.