The global population is ageing fast. The share of world’s older adults is likely to nearly double from about 12% to 22% between 2015 and 2050. Moreover, the Longitudinal Aging study shows that over 20% of Indian adults above 60 have mental health issues.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, this number increased significantly due to fear of catching the virus, stress and anxiety. In addition, the loss of family members, friends or partners has only compounded the issue. Studies also show that the elderly are more at a risk of developing mental health after recovering from COVID-19.
Physical and psychological vulnerabilities are part of ageing. Mental health is the cornerstone of public health. This is more so in the elderly who face numerous physical and mental health challenges. Major decline in functional abilities like mobility, frailty, bereavement, and socioeconomic events like retirement can lead to isolation, loneliness or psychological distress in the elderly and might require long-term care. Moreover, those with health issues like heart disease have higher rates of depression.
Today there are facilities like nursing care of elderly patients to ensure mental-physical well being of the community. If you want to know more about this type of care, you can book a session on DocGenie.
Older adults might also face physical, verbal, psychological, financial and sexual abuse; abandonment; neglect; and serious losses of dignity and respect. In addition to physical injuries, this type of abuse can lead to long-term psychological ramifications, including depression and anxiety. It is time to recognise and address these challenges. You can also consider home care services for seniors to ensure complete safety and wellbeing of the aged family members.
Here are some important components of keeping our ageing family members mentally healthy-
Healthy contact with family
A positive and healthy relationship with family members can contribute greatly in keeping the elderly mentally well. Due to health or mobility issues, older adults can get isolated, due to less participation in daily family activities and events. The pandemic has added to this challenge. In spite of our fast and busy lives taking time out to communicate with them is a great way to make them feel belonged. Grandchildren are particularly dear to the elderly. Making sure that they get to spend time with them might also be of immense help as the emotional support will keep them happy and thereby healthy.
Relevant and updated information
Information is power. Ensuring access to relevant and updated information, particularly during the pandemic, could also be a highly effective way of making the elderly feel relieved.
Caring for the general medical and psychological needs
Another great way to keep them mentally healthy is to take care of their general medical and psychological needs including taking them for routine check-up and counselling sessions if needed. Today you can also book a doctor consultation online and help them get medical care from the safety of their home. However, if the elderly members need constant medical attention you can seek help from geriatric care services who offer nursing care of elderly patients or home care services for seniors.
Respecting their personal space and dignity
Elderly people deserve a dignified life filled with care, love and affection. Understanding their needs and concerns, makes them feel loved and valued. However, as individuals they also need their privacy and personal space. A separate room with all necessary amenities would help them feel at ease and encourage them to be more independent.
Help them adopt a healthy lifestyle
Regular exercise for 30 minutes and a balanced diet can go a long way in maintaining the physical health of our elderly family members. According to medical practitioners, release of endorphin hormones during exercise enhances the mood and facilitates well-being. You can encourage the elderly to do both in order to stay physically and mentally well.
Highlight the importance of a daily routine
Following a routine including fixed meal and bed times, regular exercise and other activities helps to sleep better. A good night’s sleep can be of great help in addressing stress and anxiety in the elderly.
Support them in strengthening social connections
Social media is a great way to stay connected with like-minded individuals irrespective of age. Encourage them to join an online platform and get introduced to new people. Many elderly are not comfortable using digital devices. You can take efforts to make them digitally literate which will help in empowering them and in turn build their confidence.
Taking community level efforts
While the above steps are to be taken at individual or family level, you can also take certain steps for better mental health of the elderly at a community level. Creating local mental health support groups where the elderly can share their experiences and get help from those going through similar challenges, like covid loss, depression and loneliness.
Mental health issues are still a taboo in India and are surrounded by stigma. This stops people, especially the elderly, from seeking help when needed. It is crucial to do away with the stigma and encourage them to talk about their mental health issues. The younger ones should also take responsibility to help them find the required support whenever necessary.
With the availability of online doctor counselling, it is now extremely convenient to consult a mental health expert from the comfort of your home. All you need is a device and a stable internet connection. Online counselling can be done at a time suitable for you, it is extremely private and also very budget friendly. If you or any of your loved ones faces any kind of mental unease, do not hesitate to book an appointment with one of our highly experienced GPs or psychiatrists on DocGenie for timely consultation and treatment.
DocGenie is an online telemedicine platform that provides you with quality healthcare from the comfort of your own space. On DocGenie, you can book an online consultation with highly qualified doctors as well as book lab tests for home collection.