Mental illness in seniors is a topic that isn't discussed enough, especially with data showing two out of every three seniors aren't getting the proper care and support they need. According to the CDC, over 20% of older adults suffer from mental health disorders with depression being the most reported among older adults. Here are 5 ways to talk to your senior parent about mental health and depression.
Provide a safe space for your parent to talk about their depressive symptoms and overall mental health. Offer a hug or encouragement as they open up to you and provide comfort in their time of need. A listening ear without judgement can alleviate many seniors' fears of coming forward with their depressive symptoms. Depression may arise with a major life change such as a loss, retirement, or battling an illness. Just being there for your senior parent can help them explore their symptoms and get to the root of the depression.
Your senior parent may have questions and concerns about different treatments or the way they're feeling. Listen to each concern they have without criticizing or telling them how they should feel. Ensure you aren't offering suggestions or your own perspective when they're talking about their symptoms. This requires the focus to be all on them, validating their feelings and allowing them to choose how they want to move forward.
Your senior parent may have some resistance to treatment options, which is why treading gently towards this topic will bring the best results. Help them piece together their symptoms to recognize they may have a problem they aren't able to handle on their own. Encourage them that it's possible to feel better than they do now. Then, bring up the name of a therapist or psychiatrist who can assist them in making treatment decisions that best suit them.
There's no one-size-fits all approach for the treatment of depression and other mental disorders. Many seniors may need a combination of talk therapy, medications, and even art or pet therapy to lessen depressive symptoms. Talking with a trusted professional about the best path forward for your senior parent may help them alleviate any misgivings they have to treatment and shed light on the options they have to feel better.
Loneliness can contribute to depressive symptoms, making it that much more important to keep up with your senior parent on their symptoms and treatment options. Create a visiting schedule or phone calls so they have something to look forward to during the week. Check in with them as often as you're able to just to say hi or catch up. You can also stay in the loop by following up with their practitioner or psychiatrist if your parent allows you access.
Contact Wellspring Center for Prevention to learn more about a number of programs dedicated to seniors that can assist with promoting healthy decisions, creating a healthy environment, and engaging seniors in education towards a positive lifestyle.