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OCT 09/2018

Taking care of your mental health in later life

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As we grow older we often think to take more care of our physical health rather than both our physical and mental health.

Retirement, staying healthy and active, finances, mobility and independence can all effect our mental well-being. There may also be the worry of our loved ones’ health, being widowed or divorced, gaining a physical disability, illness or fear of loneliness and isolation when living on your own.

Some people think that deterioration in mental health is unavoidable when you get older, when in fact this is a misconception and most people don’t develop mental health problems just because of their age. It’s commonly down to changes in events and lifestyle. 

Mental health and over 60’s

It’s been found that one in five older people (aged 60 or over) living in the community, and two in five within care homes experience depression or poor mental health. (1)

There are many triggers for depression and it’s often linked to retirement, lower incomes, illnesses and loneliness.

Signs of depression

Whilst a key sign of depression is feeling low, you may also:

  • lose interest in the things you once loved,
  • lose your appetite,
  • find it hard to relax and/or sleep despite feeling tired,
  • lose confidence and feel bad or guilty,
  • You may also be impacted by memory loss, such as dementia, which puts an added strain on your health with anxiety and confusion.(2) 

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

If you find that your feelings start to impact your life on a regular basis, please seek help as soon as you can. Mental health is not a sign of weakness and there is a huge amount of support available to you.

  • Talk to a family member or friend. They may not be able to offer you the specialist help that you require, but offloading and talking about your feelings can elevate some of the burden,
  • Be sure to tell your GP about how you’re feeling too. They’ll be able to offer professional support and guidance when you need it most,
  • Stay active and healthy to look after your mind and body. Physical exercise, even when moderate, will help to boost your self-esteem and may also aid sleep patterns,
  • Start a jig-saw, a puzzle, read a book, colour or play a musical instrument to keep your mind active,
  • Stay hydrated, eat a well-balanced diet, drink less alcohol and caffeine to prevent sleepless nights,
  • Go for a walk, spend time with friends and immerse yourself with those that love and care for you.

A reminder for homecare workers

When out on your visits, ask your service user how they’re feeling. If they’re having a bad day, ask them why and make a note of what’s making them feel a particular way. If you notice a regular pattern in the feelings they express speak to your manager at the local branch who will be able to alert next-of-kin or a health professional who can provide timely support.

Also help your service users to accomplish some of the above help points. A stroll around the garden, a warm cup of tea or a quick crossword are all small actions, with the potential for a big impact.    

If you know anyone who would like to make a difference in your community by caring for the elderly, share this article or click here for more information.

 

Source:

(1) MentalHealth.Org www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/how-to-in-later-life/

(2) Royal College of Psychiatrists - rcpsych.ac.uk https://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/healthadvice/problemsanddisorders/depressioninolderadults.aspx

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