How to Assess Mental Health in Seniors When You Live Far Away From Them

mental health in seniors
Lovingly and effectively assess mental health in seniors with these tips from the Portage home health experts.

The fear and isolation brought on by COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on the wellbeing of older adults, with nearly 50% of seniors surveyed in a Kaiser Family Foundation poll stating that their amount of stress and worry has negatively impacted their own health. And even though it still may be hazardous to visit in person with senior loved ones, it’s important to stay in frequent and regular contact, and also to look for any changes or signs which might signify a change in mental health in seniors, such as depression.

As stated by psychiatrist Judith Feld, MD, MPH, “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?’”

Other signs of depression to watch for include sleeping problems, lack of appetite, listlessness, and complaints about pain, which surprisingly, is often one of the main signs of depression in senior citizens. Pay attention to anything that may be atypical for a senior’s personality and character.

It is crucial to understand that depression is not simply an unavoidable facet of aging, and that it can be a serious – but treatable – condition.

Below are a few additional suggestions to help thoroughly assess mental health in seniors:

  • Keep the conversations natural and organic, without coming across as interrogating. Statements such as, “Tell me what has been happening in your life recently,” will encourage an older adult to open up even more than, “Tell me what the physician told you at your last appointment.” The goal is to be caring but not condescending, being careful not to make an effort to parent your parents.
  • While seeing and talking with the grandchildren on Zoom is a great way to boost an elderly loved one’s spirits, be certain that you allow for some one-on-one time to talk without children present.
  • Take notice of what’s going on in the background of your video chats for any further clues; for example, whether or not the house looks neat and well maintained, and the senior’s personal hygiene – disheveled, unkempt hair, for instance.
  • Take into consideration whether substance abuse might be a factor. An increase in alcohol consumption during the pandemic is happening in individuals of all ages, and can be especially harmful if there are potential interactions with medications the senior is taking.

If you suspect depression or any other mental health issues in an elderly parent, be sure to connect with the physician right away. Since you are most knowledgeable about the senior, you might be in a position to pick up on cues that the medical team misses during routine appointments, and it’s vital to make your concerns known.

If you have any concerns, contact Home Sweet Home In-Home Care for further assistance. We’re able to serve as your ears and eyes when you’re unable to be there in person, and provide a wide array of customized services to boost socialization and quality of life at home. Reach out to our Portage home health experts at (269) 373-5444 in Kalamazoo, (269) 763-5350 in Paw Paw, (269) 849-9252 in St. Joseph, and (269) 963-9888 in Battle Creek to get started. For a full list of the communities we serve, please visit our Locations page.

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