Category Archives: Mental Illness

Ways for Seniors to Improve Mental and Physical Health

Living Well, Be active as you grow olderEasy Ways for Seniors to Stay Healthy

In a time where daily stress is almost a given, it’s important for us to take care of ourselves.

Seniors, especially, need to find healthy ways to cope with stress and anxiety as well as ways to actively improve physical and mental well-being. Fortunately, there are many ways to do that, and most of them are more simple than you might think. Here are a few of the best.

Engage in daily exercise

Exercise is important for everyone, but for individuals over the age of 50, it’s imperative. Getting in at least thirty minutes of workout time every day will help improve your mood and overall health, and it might be a good way to socialize, as well. Start a walking group with friends or neighbors, or invite your spouse or coworker to a swim aerobics class. Having someone to talk to will make you look forward to working out rather than dreading it.

Consider a pet

If you don’t already have a pet, consider getting a dog or cat. Animals can help reduce anxiety and even lower blood pressure, and they are wonderful companions. Dogs are also great motivators on days when you don’t feel like exercising, because they’ll always be up for a walk!

Stay in touch

When life gets hectic, we sometimes forget to stay in touch with loved ones. Make it a point to sit down and write a letter to someone you care about, or give them a call. Set aside time on a specific day every week to do it so you’ll have no trouble remembering.

Eat well

Your diet can have a very specific impact on your health and how you feel, so make sure you’re not overloading on refined sugars and carbs, which can make you feel sluggish. Lots of leafy greens, fish, nuts, and fresh fruit will go a long way toward helping you feel better in every way.

Get some rest

You might think you’re getting enough sleep, but if you feel tired all day it’s possible you need to take another look at your habits. Are you lying awake for a long time at night? Taking long naps during the day? Try staying away from the television, computer, or smartphone for an hour or two before bedtime. Instead, read a book or take a long hot shower. Get yourself relaxed before bed to ensure you’ll sleep and feel rested when you get up.

Get creative

For retirees, especially, the days can seem long and uninspired. If you find yourself feeling unfulfilled, try a new hobby. Get creative and take up a painting class, or try gardening or woodworking. Allowing yourself to create things and try something new will open up a whole new world, and you may just find happiness there.

Staying active and keeping your mind healthy and alert will ensure you’ll be feeling good and ready to tackle anything, no matter what your age is.

Depression among seniors is often overlooked and untreated

depression elderSadly to say but depression among seniors is a far more common problem than one might expect, but that doesn’t mean it’s a ‘normal’ part of growing old.

In fact, seniors suffering from depression are often overlooked and go untreated, thanks to it being seen as ‘just part of aging’. But what about depression among seniors make it so hard to notice?

Most people have a certain idea of depression, one that involves ‘feeling sad’ as the main aspect. But this is far from the only, or even, the main, symptom of depression. In seniors especially, other symptoms may be more prominent, but harder to notice. Whilst being aware of sadness is important, it’s vital these other aspects don’t get overlooked. So what should you be looking out for?

Difficulty Sleeping

It’s common as we age for us to need less sleep – it’s why there’s the stereotype as elderly people going to be earlier and getting up at the crack of dawn. But this change in sleep patterns should feel natural, not challenging. If a senior person is complaining about having trouble getting to sleep, waking up frequently throughout the night or other such disturbances, it’s likely not just age, but a symptom of an underlying problem. There are a few things it could be, but one thing is may be is a sign of depression.

Loss of Appetite

Again, losing appetite is common among seniors – taste-buds grow less effective, and we need to eat less food as we age. By itself, this may not be cause for concern, but when appearing alongside other common traits, it’s worth considering. The fact these aspects of depression are also common for other reasons in seniors is part of what makes spotting depression so tricky.

Social Withdrawal

Elderly people often feel like their social circles are shrinking, but this shouldn’t mean that they withdraw. After a dramatic event – a death or illness in a friend – then it’s understandable that one may shrink from socializing, but if this continues and becomes the norm then it may well be another sign that there’s something bigger at play.


If a person is complaining about having little to no energy, feeling listless, fatigued and worn out, then there are a few things it could be. Whilst age does put extra pressure on our systems, it alone doesn’t necessarily lead to this state – so it’s worth exploring what it could be. Whether it’s not eating enough, feeling at a loss since retirement or something like depression, it’s worth taking seriously – even if they don’t think it is.

The second part of the problem is when considering the prevalence of depression in seniors is how often it goes untreated. One of the biggest issues here is persuading a senior person that they don’t have to feel this way, and to seek treatment. Many seniors won’t open up about issues because they don’t want to burden their families – and will outright deny feeling that way even if you confront them on it. So how can you help them get the treatment they need?

Firstly, don’t normalize the things they describe. Try to avoid writing off comments about listlessness or sleep disturbances as ‘just getting old’, but instead validate them as negative things that don’t have to be the case.

Secondly, don’t force the topic – even if you suspect they have depression, you don’t have to confront them using such terms. Many senior people will reject the term and even the possibility of attending psychotherapy. They are more of the generation of “minding-your-own-business for cultural and other variety of reasons. Some of them will associate it with sadness, some won’t understand it, and some will simply feel as though it makes them weak. Instead, talk about the things they will admit to – if they talk about losing appetite; discuss addressing this issue with a doctor, rather than suggesting they go straight to therapy. Taking your time and following their lead can often lead to them actually getting help (even if it starts with just one symptom!) rather than writing the whole thing off.

Edward Francis from Foresth reccomends “…make sure you’re working with professionals who actually understand senior depression. If they’re in a care home, or getting home visits, chat to them about your concerns – and, if they write it off as ‘just getting old’, don’t be afraid to look elsewhere…”

Depression in people of any age is often misunderstood, and this is extra difficult for the elderly, so try to support them and prevent them being overlooked in every way you can. Organizations like Living Well specializes in working with elders who suffer from mental illnesses, often called gero-psychiatric patients. The most common diagnoses in gero-psychiatric patients include depression, dementia, psychosis and anxiety. Seniors with mental illness find it more difficult dealing with adjustments in lifestyle, such as isolation or loss of independence. Medical conditions or physical diseases complicate the challenges they face.

There are not enough mental health facilities nationwide to accommodate elders, or assisted living facilities with specialized services to meet their needs. By providing gero-psychology training for companions and in-home caregivers and promoting the values of dignity, choice, self-determination and individuality, specialized and compassionate professionals close the gap. Every encounter with an elder can be therapeutic, and in reality it takes a village to care for our elders, depressed or not.


Finally Medicare Paying Attention to Mental Health Issues in Elders

Living Well with Alzheimer's

Living Well

The New York Times on December 27, 2013 announced some favorable changes.

“…On Jan. 1, for the first time since Medicare’s creation seniors who seek psychological therapy will be responsible for 20 percent of the bill while Medicare will pay 80 percent, the same percentage it covers for most medical services. (Payment kicks in once someone exhausts an annual deductible — $147 next year.) In 2008, Medicare covered 50 percent of the cost of psychological treatment. Last year, it covered 65 percent.

For decades, older adults with depression, anxiety and other psychological conditions have received unequal treatment under Medicare. The program paid a smaller share of the bill for therapy from psychiatrists, psychologists or clinical social workers than it did for medical services. And Medicare imposed strict lifetime limits on stays in psychiatric hospitals, although no such limits applied to medical care received in inpatient facilities. Read the article

An Age-Segregated Dream

Paula Span, in the New York Times “The New Old Age” section brings our attention to the phenomena of retirees leaving home to go to sunny Florida.  A new film about a Florida retirement complex poses some difficult questions. The film is playing at the Jewish Film festival in San Francisco this week. The filmmaker, Sari Gilman, the granddaughter of a New Yorker couple of retirees, who shot the film in Kings Point, Florida, says: “The benefits of the age-segregated community seemed, in the end, to be a liability,” . As she spent time shooting at Kings Point, she learned that “there was a bit of a Darwinian bent to social life there. If you had your health, you were popular. If your health started to fail, there were whispers around the pool: ‘Ida’s going down.’ ” Read the article

A Doctor’s Focus Is the Minds of the Elderly

doctor-24485_640Now, a growing number of experts are calling for integrating mental health professionals into all levels of communities for the rising population of aging Americans, from nursing homes to assisted-living centers.

Gary Kennedy, the director of geriatric psychiatry at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, says psychological care is “equally if not more important than” medical care for this group. “Health policy continues to lag behind the reality that these are now mental health facilities,” Dr. Kennedy said of communities for the elderly.

While Alzheimer’s receives the lion’s share of public attention, garden-variety depression, anxiety and sleep disorders also accompany old age. Particularly for late-life depression, Dr. Agronin points to data assembled by the psychiatry department at the supporting behavioral and group therapy, treatment rarely tried with patients from generations typically considered averse to discussing such issues.

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Depression in older persons can be treated

forehead-65059_640Fortunately, the treatment prognosis for depression is good. Once diagnosed, 80 percent of clinically depressed individuals can be effectively treated by medication, psychotherapy, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) or any combination of the three. A novel treatment transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) has been cleared by the FDA and may be helpful for mild depression that has not been helped by one medication trial. Medication is effective for a majority of people with depression. Four groups of antidepressant medications have been used to effectively treat depressive illness: selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and norepinephrine and serotonin reuptake inhibitors (NSRIs), and less commonly, tricyclics, monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs),  Medication adherence is especially important, but can present challenges  among forgetful individuals. It is important to note that  all medicines have side effects as well as benefits., and the selection of the best treatment is often made based on tolerability of the side effects.
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Mental Illness in Senior Citizens

Mental illness affects one out of every five senior citizen Americans. Just a handful of the significant mental health problems that may occur during old age include delirium, dementia, depression, schizophrenia and psychosis. Older adults who suffer with mental health conditions often tend to have very abnormal behavioral and cognitive patterns that are many times associated with a decreased capacity for them to function properly.
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