The fear and isolation brought on by COVID-19 has had a significant impact on mental health and wellbeing in seniors. In a Kaiser Family Foundation poll, almost half of all older adults surveyed stated that their degree of worry and stress has negatively impacted their health. And even if you’re not able to visit in person with older adults, it’s vitally important to stay in frequent and regular contact in order to keep an eye out for any changes or indications that could point to a mental health concern.
As psychiatrist Judith Feld, MD, MPH, shares, “If a senior usually really enjoys a call with a grandchild, for example, but that seems to have changed, maybe you need to ask more questions, such as, ‘How can we be of help?’”
Further depression red flags to watch for include changes in appetite, sleeping problems, sluggishness, and complaints of pain, which interestingly, can be one of the leading signs of depression in older adults. Make note of anything that is unusual for a senior’s character and personality.
It’s also crucial to realize that depression is not just an unavoidable part of growing older, and that it can be a serious – but treatable – condition.
Following are some ideas to help effectively assess a senior’s psychological state:
- Make sure the conversation is natural, without coming across as questioning and interrogating. Statements like, “Tell me what’s been going on in your life this week,” will encourage an older family member to share much more than something like, “Tell me what your doctor said at your last appointment.” The goal is to be caring without being condescending, and being mindful never to try to parent your parents.
- While seeing and talking with the grandkids on Zoom is a great way to boost an older loved one’s state of mind, be sure to allow for some one-on-one time for you to talk together as well, without the children.
- Pay attention to what is going on in the background of your video chats for any additional clues, such as whether the house looks clean and well maintained, as well as personal hygiene – messy, uncombed hair, for instance.
- Determine whether substance abuse could be a factor. An increase in alcohol consumption during the pandemic occurred in people of all ages, and could be especially harmful if there are possible interactions with any meds the senior is taking.
If you think depression or any other mental health concerns may be impacting a senior you love, make sure to get in touch with the person’s doctor as soon as possible. Since you are most familiar with the older adult, you may be in a position to pick up on cues that the doctor misses during routine appointments, and it’s important to make your concerns known.
If you have any concerns, reach out to Heaven at Home Senior Care’s experts in Argyle home health care for further assistance. We can serve as your eyes and ears when you can’t be there in person, and provide a wide range of personalized services to enhance socialization and quality of life at home.
You can reach us any time at (940) 380-0500 in Denton or (972) 245-1515 in Dallas or by filling out our online form to learn more. Visit our Service Area page for a full list of the communities where we provide care.