Elderly Care: How to approach mental illness

home care omahaStudies show that upwards of 20 percent of people over the age of 55 suffer from some sort of mental disorder. Among the most common conditions are anxiety disorders, substance abuse, severe cognitive impairment (e.g., Alzheimer’s) and mood disorders like depression and bipolar disorder. On top of this, older adults with other debilitating conditions such as heart disease can easily develop severe depression, especially if their mental health is ignored.

As a family caregiver, addressing the mental illness of your aging loved one no doubt evokes stress along with feelings of dread. But it’s a necessary conversation to have, one that will help ensure your loved one’s care needs are met. A recent post on senior living news blog A Place for Mom offers the following strategies for approaching the touchy topic.

    • Make sure they are taking proper medication. Medication prescribed for mental illness aims to help diminish symptoms like anxiety. It’s also a good bet that your loved one will be more receptive when they are properly medicated.


    • Choose a safe, calm time. Find a time of day and a place when you and your loved one are both calm (e.g., after running weekend errands together). Chances for having an open, honest conversation is more likely if you and your loved one are both calm and clear-headed.


    • Take resistance in stride. When the conversations takes a negative shift, try to switch to a less inflammatory topic. Threats and outbursts from you will only shut down the conversation and add anxiety. Also, don’t take outbursts directed at you personally.


    • If at first you don’t succeed, try again. If your loved one is unreceptive to a conversation regrading their mental health issues don’t be afraid to drop it for the time being and address it a later point in time.


    • Get the proper paperwork you to care for your loved one. In some cases, elderly persons with mental health problems may be unable to take care of their day-to-day care needs. Don’t feel guilty about getting a medical power of attorney that will allow you to make decisions on your loved one’s behalf.


Physicians Choice Private Duty currently serving Omaha, Eastern Nebraska and Western Iowa provides seniors and their families a complete understanding of the available care options and helps families maneuver through the challenges of the system. All Encompass services are directed by registered nurses or social workers with no long-term contracts. Contact us today for help with your senior care needs.

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