Mental health and emotional well-being becomes even more important in old age as individual faces different types of physical, mental and emotional challenges which come with time. Mental and neurological disorders among older adults account for 6.6% of the total disability (DALYs) for 60 plus age group. Approximately 15% of adults aged 60 and over suffer from a mental disorder. Some of the most common mental health illnesses found in the elderlies include dementia, depression, anxiety disorders and severe cognitive impairment among others. Almost 40 per cent of people aged 85 and older suffer from Alzheimer’s and related Dementia. At the global level, the number of people living with dementia is expected to nearly double every 20 years. Depressive disorders and symptoms also affect many older persons, particularly the most vulnerable among them living in long-term care facilities.
There is an increased risk for loneliness and social isolation because they are more likely to face factors such as living alone, the loss of family or friends, lack of meaningful involvement post retirement , little or no social interaction , feeling of insecurity ,chronic illness & deterioration in health, and hearing and sight loss. Social isolation significantly increased a person’s risk of premature death from all causes, a risk that may rival those of smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity. Social isolation was associated with about a 50% percent increased risk of dementia. Poor social relationships (characterized by social isolation or loneliness) was associated with a 29% increased risk of heart disease and a 32% increased risk of stroke. Loneliness was associated with higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide. Loneliness among heart failure patients was associated with a nearly 4 times increased risk of death, 68% increased risk of hospitalization, and 57% increased risk of emergency department visits.1
Emotional wellness in old age is one of the basic requirements of elderly for a happy and healthy ageing.
Social embeddedness in the realms of the family and the broader community and alleviation of loneliness are central issues in the construction of social and emotional well-being and quality of life. It is important to identify the mechanisms responsible for creating either social embeddedness or loneliness.
Here are some of the ways through which the emotional needs of elderly people can be met
- Staying Connected with loved ones and family
Loneliness is one of the major feelings that elderly experience as their close friends and immediate family circles become progressively smaller. Loneliness not only leads to a feeling of alienation and unhappiness but is a major cause of mental health issues like Depression and neurodegenerative disease like Dementia and Alzheimer’s. Hence it is very important for the family and friends to stay connected with the elderly to help them overcome the feeling of loneliness. In today’s world the digital media is the easiest way to remain connected with family, friends and relatives whether its through social media platforms or virtual online video calling options. Just a message is enough to cheer up an elderly. If possible the family should try to regularly meet them in festivals and special occasions and celebrations like birthdays etc. to cheer them up. Children and grandchildren should spend quality time with the elderly at home.
- Enable & Empower the Elderly for independent living
Making them have a sense of independence at the stage of live when they need support in doing small tasks is very important specially for individuals who used to do everything on their own. However with old age they are they become dependent on others which gives them a feeling of helplessness. It is therefore of utmost importance to make them feel empowered and provide the help they need without any delays. Make them feel that their needs are a priority for the family and enable them by providing them a support system to do things on their own and independently. 74% senior citizens in India stay alone and if we could provide them with necessary support services it would enable and empower them to live independently.
- Minimize frustrations and potential arguments
With elderly people. It is not advisable to expect them to change at the pace the world is changing. Thus being a good listener is important quality of the caregiver to avoid conflicts and arguments which shall keep them happy.
- Give priority to their health
Healthy body and mind are two sides of the same coin. Good nutritive diet, proper sleep, some form of exercise, and mediation not only lead to a healthy physical body but also a healthy mind leading to their emotional wellbeing.
- Keep them engaged in some activity
Meaningful engagement in any social activity, pursuing a hobby or acquiring new one, mentoring others, teaching or looking after grandkids, taking up part time employment shall not only keep them busy but also give them satisfaction of being meaningfully involved in something they would enjoy doing.
- Having patience, empathy, and compassion
Towards elderly in their day to day lives when their body becomes weak, memory starts fading and understanding and adopting to new ways of life becomes a challenge. It makes them feel comfortable and loved while receiving assistance with empathy and compassion and it provides an opportunity for us to understand them better.
- Providing timely assistance and emergency support services
Such in case as medical, emergency gives a sense mental relief for happy ageing.
- Timely treatment & medical intervention:
Many people believe that memory problems and feelings of sadness or pessimism are a normal part of ageing and therefore either postpone or avoid seeking care. Social stigma is another barrier to accessing mental health care and obtaining an early diagnosis. It has been estimated that stigma is the main factor behind the large gap between estimated prevalence and actual diagnosis rates, with less than 50 per cent of dementia patients receiving a formal diagnosis. Many dementia sufferers continue to be abandoned or hidden from public life. However these should be treated by experts at early stages to control progressive deterioration of mental health.
The need for mental health care in old age is thus growing in scope and urgency.
Currently, levels of investment in mental health tend to be relatively low. In high-income countries, annual spending on mental health for the general population is less than 2 dollars per patient. In low-income countries, it is less than 25 cents per patient. At the same time, awareness of mental health diseases is also low. There needs to be focused plans and awareness campaigns on mental health issues of older population.
We at Happy60plus provide Help Buddies who not only help and support in small everyday tasks but provide companionship to the elderly. Our Help Buddies are like young friends to the elderly who love to help, interact, connect and learn from our elderly clients and help them keep loneliness at bay.Happy60plus help Buddies support the elderly facing mental and emotional issues engaging them in interactive brain games, making light hearted conversations and taking them for outdoor activities like a stroll in the garden or park. Happy60plus Healthcare Help Buddies are trained to assist and support elderly having Dementia.
Do connect with us for your Help Buddy needs to assist your loved ones!!
Visit website: https://www.happy60plus.com/
Contact: +91 8088714210 , +91 9980761545
Department of Economic and Social Affairs programme on ageing The focal point on ageing in the United Nations system
Center For Disease control and Prevention