Aging is not “lost youth” but a new stage of opportunity and strength.
– Betty Friedan
UNDERSTANDING OLDER ADULTS AND MENTAL HEALTH Aging is a part of the natural cycle of life, which many people look forward to as they begin to retire from working and move onto the next phase of their lives. However, the transition to retirement and the aging process can present many significant challenges for individuals and their loved ones.
According to the American Association of Geriatric Psychiatry, an estimated 1 in 5 older adults experiences a mental health concern during some time of their lives. Many older adults who experience mental health concerns leave their symptoms untreated, which causes an increased risk for depression and suicide. There is a growing need for understanding and care options to address the concerns of our older adults.
Common Concerns for Older Adults
Grief and Loss – As we age we begin to lose the ones in our lives that we cherish the most. Many older adults have suffered from the loss of their parents, siblings, spouses, friends, and even children. Older adults experience more loss than most younger people, which can cause significant feelings of distress and loneliness. For more information see our page on Grief and Loss.
Illness – Research has shown that even normal healthy adults often experience mild declines in areas of functioning such as memory, hearing and vision, body strength, and energy level. However, some people may develop more severe lasting chronic mental and physical illnesses such as Alzheimers or Parkinsons.
Loss of independence – It is difficult for someone to admit that they need help, let alone assistance with basic needs. A loss of independence and a need for additional help can cause many emotions such as humiliation, guilt, shame, and a loss of control. Some of the losses include:
Financial – needing someone else to manage income, or needing an assigned conservator or guardian
Social – no longer able to freely go out with friends, visit places, attend parties, etc.
Physical – requiring assistance with mobility, inability to perform hygiene tasks independently, assistance with transferring
Independent Living – needing a home care giver, moving to assisted living facility or nursing home
Transportation – loss of drivers license, having to utilize public transportation, or needing a caregiver to transport to desired places
Chronic pain – This is one the most common conditions faced by older adults. According to a study on national health and aging trends, 52.8% of the older adult population experience some type of pain on a persistent basis. Having chronic pain can have a significant impact on daily functioning, energy levels, and mood. This can lead to other problems such as mental health disorders and drug and alcohol abuse to attempt to self-manage symptoms.
Depression and Anxiety – While depression and anxiety are not typical as part of the aging cycle, many people who experience a medical illness such as a stroke, cancer, or arthritis will often exhibit symptoms of depression or anxiety as well. Many of these symptoms are frequently overlooked and left untreated. For additional information, see our page on Depression and Anxiety.
Addiction Issues – Drug and alcohol abuse is one of the fastest growing health problems for older adults. According to SAMHSA, over 17% of all older adults aged 65 and older are affected by drug and alcohol abuse. Older adults may commonly abuse prescription medications, alcohol, or other drugs to cope with physical or mental illness. This is often gone unnoticed by health care professionals, friends, and family because older adults may be more likely to hide their use, or the symptoms of addiction are often mistaken for other common symptoms related to aging. For more information, see our page on Drug or Alcohol Abuse.
Social Isolation – According to the U.S. Census Bureau, an estimated 11 million people aged 65 and older live alone. Older adults are at risk of becoming lonely and socially isolated since a majority tend to live alone after the loss of their spouse. They also may have smaller social networks than younger adults due to losses of loved ones, inability to attend social gatherings, transportation issues, or their children have moved away. Isolation can have significant negative physical and mental health impacts, which can lead to increased risk of chronic illness or mortality.
DOES COUNSELING WORK? Yes! Older adults who receive counseling can have the same amount of success as younger people. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 80% of older adults who participated in mental health treatment recovered from their symptoms of depression. Counseling helps older individuals work through their difficulties with the transitions of aging and encourages the development of new meaning and self-esteem. Various treatment modalities such as CBT or solution focused therapy can be helpful in working with individuals to overcome their present symptoms. Counseling for older adults also focuses on working to solve basic problems such as transportation, social and community supports, development of hobbies, and an improved outlook on life.
Shorepointe is Reducing Barriers to Counseling for Seniors
Getting to counseling treatment may present as a challenge for many older adults due to advanced medical conditions, lack of mobility, or lack of transportation. At Shorepointe, we work to address your concerns by providing user-friendly virtual online therapy sessions which can be provided in the comfort of your own home. We can assist you in this process and can answer any questions related to our online sessions. For more information see our page on how to Join on Online Session.
WHY SHOREPOINTE? At Shorepointe Counseling, we have nearly 40 years of combined experience in the mental health profession working with older adults and their families. We understand the growing needs of individuals as they go through the aging process, and provide support and guidance in working through issues and achieving goals. We aid in helping our clients to recognize that there is still growth and recovery that can occur at any stage of life. We work with local communities to provide resources to meet essential basic needs for our clients. We also work with caregivers on long term planning issues and stress management when facing crisis during a change in their loved ones’ ability to live independently. We provide a non-judgmental, nurturing environment and offer flexibility in meeting your needs and your schedule. We look forward to helping you on your journey!
Jerry M. Nehr, Jr., MA, LPC
Contact Us Today.