Did you look forward to the “golden years” after retirement so you could travel, spend time with family, and engage in your hobbies? Retirement brings about positive changes in many people’s lives, but it is a life transition that can cause significant changes in routine, relationships, and one’s sense of purpose. These life changes can increase the number of worries or stresses that you are facing, which might increase the risk of depression and anxiety.
Whether you are experiencing depression and anxiety or you are looking for ways to avoid these mental health issues, there are a few things that you can do. Right now is a great time to take a proactive approach to protecting your mental health:
1. Maintain Physical Activity
Aches and pains are a normal part of the aging process, and sometimes these problems cause people to slow down and avoid physical activity. But, regular physical activity is essential for both physical and mental health. When you exercise, it boosts certain hormones within the brain that keep a person happy. Incorporate light exercise into your weekly routine at least three times per week. Gardening and walking are great ways to get started.
2. Find a Way to Contribute
Retirement can be a difficult transition if you are used to leaving the house on a daily basis for work or other activities. Look for a new hobby or volunteer opportunity that will utilize your strengths and give you a greater sense of purpose. These things will help by expanding your social network and possibly making someone else’s life better.
3. Talk with a Doctor
In addition to making healthy lifestyle changes, it is essential that you talk with your doctor about how you are feeling. He or she can assess your symptoms and make a determination about the best treatment options. A referral to a mental health professional can be helpful, which could include talk therapy and/or medication therapy. The important thing is take steps to get help.
Here at Windward Life Care, we offer assistance for older adults and their families. These resources can be beneficial to give you the support that you are searching for during the later years of life. If you need help finding a qualified mental health professional experience in working with older adults, we can help. Contact us today and we will gladly answer your questions.
National Suicide Prevention Week
This week is National Suicide Prevention Week, an opportunity to discuss a subject that is too often considered “taboo.” According to the most recent statistics released by the Centers for Disease Control, the suicide rate in the United States is climbing, despite the efforts of public health and mental health advocates to raise awareness and encourage people to seek help.
The most recent statistics from the CDC (from 2011) reveal that U.S. national suicide deaths rose slightly for the fifth year in a row from 12.1 per 100,000 in 2010 to 12.3 per 100,000 in 2011 (rates are per 100,000 individuals). Data from 2012 and 2013 have not yet been released.
Older men are particularly at risk for self-harm. While the risk of suicide declines for women with advancing age, statistics show that men’s risk increases as they get older. Older men die by suicide at a rate that is more than seven times higher than that of older women. White men aged 85+ die from suicide at a rate four times higher than the average rate of suicide nationally. Firearms are the most common method of suicide in older adults (67%), followed by poisoning (14%) and suffocation (12%). Continue reading “Suicide: Older Adults at Risk”
As people age they encounter many losses along the way. Family members and friends pass away. Some lose functional abilities (i.e., driving or the ability to walk without assistance), or experience memory loss. These types of losses and changes often lead to depression among older adults. More than 6.5 million of the 35 million Americans aged 65 years or older experience depression (source: National Alliance on Mental Illness).
Depression is not a normal part of aging. It’s a medical condition that should be treated as such, and often manifests differently in older adults. If your loved one is showing any of the following symptoms they may be suffering from depression:
- Memory problems
- Social withdrawal
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Vague complaints of pain
- Difficulty sleeping
- Delusions (fixed false beliefs)
- Persistent and vague complaints
- Help-seeking behavior
- Moving more slowly
- Demanding behavior
Please talk to a healthcare professional if you think your loved one may have depression.
The leading authorities suggest that the best practices for the treatment of depression include medication management combined with psychotherapy or talk therapy. However, many older adults may balk at taking medication for depression or seeing a therapist to talk about their problems. There is recent research to suggest that there is another option for the treatment of depression: Behavioral Action Therapy.
Behavioral Activation therapy is based on the premise that a change in behavior can result in improved mood. When an individual is depressed, they often withdraw from relationships and activities that had previously provided pleasure and a sense of purpose. The more one withdraws from enjoyable activity, the more depressed they become. This can become a vicious cycle of withdrawal from pleasurable activities leading to increased depression. (Todays Geriatric Medicine Vol. 6 No. 5 P. 24)
Behavioral Activation Treatment consists of encouraging a depressed individual to partake in recreational, social, physical, and vocational activities from which they may have withdrawn. There is an emphasis on creating routine in one’s activities. For example: going out to eat with a friend every Monday for lunch, attending a painting class at the senior center on Wednesday afternoons, or calling family members on Fridays and catching up. Research has found that keeping a regular schedule of activities and events that are enjoyable to the individual increases mood and can decrease symptoms of depression over time (Todays Geriatric Medicine Vol. 6 No. 5 P. 24). This essentially can create an upward spiral in mood. Behavioral Activation Therapy is more than therapy; it’s a skill that people learn and build into their lives.
Family members can work with their loved ones to establish such routines. But families are busy, and cannot always ensure their loved one engages in the activities. A care manager can assist in developing a personalized activity schedule and working with a caregiver to ensure the schedule is upheld. A caregiver can provide your loved one with opportunities for socialization, including transportation to activities and reminders and encouragements to partake in scheduled activities. A care manager can attend medical appointments and follow up with health care providers to ensure symptoms of depression are abating.