We Must Assist Older People in Managing Their Mental Health

By 2030, the number of older people suffering from mental health illnesses is anticipated to nearly double. Isolation, which more than doubles the risk of depression compared to those who do not or rarely feel lonely, is one factor compounding this.
We Must Assist Older People in Managing Their Mental Health

The problem has become so widespread that the United States Surgeon General declared a public health crisis of loneliness, isolation, and lack of connection in May, adding that isolation can be as hazardous to one's health as smoking or a lack of exercise.

Because of a variety of difficulties, such as access to care, cost, or stigma, acknowledging and supporting people with mental health issues sometimes takes a back seat to physical health. However, mental health issues can exacerbate physical ones, causing significant disturbances to general health and well-being. This is made worse by the fact that towns are failing to offer appropriate services to residents in need.

Santa Clara County has spent significant funds to solve the long-term crisis in our communities, but addressing how we respond to mental health in our daily lives is also part of the answer, as is calling out prevalent misconceptions about mental health and older folks.

For example, some people believe that feeling melancholy as they age is normal, yet depression is not a typical component of aging. Indeed, mental health concerns in older persons are frequently misunderstood because the change in behavior is attributed to other health disorders or is overshadowed by other conditions, such as heart disease or diabetes.

As a result, it is especially crucial for older people and their caregivers to spot warning indicators such as changes in weight and appetite, as well as sleep and fatigue concerns. Excessive concern or a lack of interest in previously loved activities are not normal aging transitions and should be addressed by a health care provider.

Retirement or living far from relatives can also decrease social connections as people age. However, spending time with familiar relationships, such as neighbors or loved ones, has a significant impact on overall wellness. This is true in regular life as well as in stressful situations. During an emergency, older folks who evacuate with people they know have reduced mental health and cognitive impairment difficulties after the emergency, as well as improved long-term health.

Santa Clara County provides a multitude of resources that can assist older adults in remaining social and engaged. The National Alliance on Mental Illness's local chapter provides support groups, multilingual group therapy sessions, and other services. Veterans frequently require specialized therapy to address this type of trauma. The San Jose Vet Center offers free assistance and resources to veterans and their families, while the United Veterans Council of Santa Clara County maintains a crisis hotline. Furthermore, the Institute on Aging Friendship Line, which has been accredited by the American Association of Suicidology, is a fantastic resource. Your health plan or provider may also provide resources.

To enhance mental health in our communities, we must also remove the stigma that might accompany it. People's reactions to talking to a therapist vary, and for some, it may be more comfortable than talking to friends or family members. Contact information or suggestions for area mental health professionals might be provided by primary care doctors or health plans. Those who are uncomfortable talking to a therapist must be respected while not allowing their discomfort to become a barrier to maximum health.

Engaging with a group of peers with shared interests, such as a reading or gardening club, or a group of people going through something similar, can be a first step toward minimizing loneliness. There are support groups for a variety of events, including the loss of a spouse, dealing with health diagnoses such as cancer or heart disease, and a variety of other issues.

Mental health has emerged as a major issue in our society, particularly among our elderly populations. Knowing what to look for, remaining connected with friends and family, and utilizing community resources can all have a significant impact on both immediate and long-term health.