Mental Health Strategies for Aging in Place
What is aging in place?
When a person decides to remain in their current habitation for as long as possible while maintaining certain comforts and quality of life, this is known as aging in place. Aging in place typically requires adding supplementary services and resources to facilitate living conditions for the aging person. Traditionally, aging in place has been thought of in terms of physical health, however mental health plays a large role in overall life satisfaction. Therefore, it is important to consider the mental health challenges associated with aging and place and how to address them.
Key mental health concerns associated with aging in place
One of the major concerns is providing older adults with mental health resources. This includes preventative services and treatments for mental health disorders. This applies both to emotional related disorders and mental capacity disorders, especially those relating to memory. At least one-third of older adults will be diagnosed with a memory impairing condition at some point in their lives, and the number of older adults with some form of mental disorder is only increasing rapidly. Additionally, most Americans report a potential loss of mental ability to be a more fearful concern than physical decline. Once above the age of 85, the likelihood of developing a cognitive disorder continues to rise. Providing support systems to help individuals age in place safely is essential, especially for older adults living independently. Some mental disorders are likely to go undiagnosed among older populations. Health providers and family members often do not recognize the signs of depression; symptoms are often misconceived as a result of the aging process or a physical illness. Substance abuse and addiction are also often overlooked and can have serious negative mental and physical impacts.
Key strategies to address mental health resources
Increase preventative health services: Services such as regular mental health screening and preventative therapy can reduce the risk of mental disorders developing as well as identify mental health concerns as they arise.
Review drug use: Implementing a thorough medication use review can eliminate excessive reliance on medications and address the mental and emotional relationship with current drug use.
Encourage physical activity and community involvement: Promoting an active lifestyle helps prevent the development of disorders like depression.
Encourage quality rest: A good night’s sleep helps improve concentration and memory formation and refreshes the immune system to help prevent disease Without enough sleep, seniors are more likely to suffer from depression and memory problems. Those who are less mobile may choose to sleep in a recliner, which may even be helpful for those with sleep apnea or back pain. However, make sure that if this is the case, the neck is supported with a pillow for a comfortable night’s sleep, there is a blanket for warmth, and if the senior in question has any lung or respiratory issues you consult a doctor first or persuade them to sleep in a bed.
Create personalized mental health plans: If issues like depression, anxiety, or substance use are identified, working with a professional clinic like TMS & Brain Health to create an individualized treatment plan that incorporates therapy as well as alternative treatment options helps to maximize treatment effectiveness and minimize the need for additional medications
Another major concern is providing sufficient social support and connection for aging persons. Social connection is essential for emotional wellbeing at all ages, however the likelihood of a person living alone rises with age. Mental or physical health concerns can act as an obstacle or challenge in leaving the house, which can lead to feelings of loneliness or isolation. A lack of activities in the community and transportation limitations can also contribute to this problem, as well as relying on informal caregivers (friends and family) who often require support themselves.
Key strategies to address social connection:
Create transportation systems: Making it easier for older adults to travel into their communities supports independence, balanced lifestyle choices, and a strong social network. Promote community involvement activities: Encourage older adults to engage in local clubs, volunteering, or hobbies to remain socially active. There are also at-home activities that can supplement companionship and support such as adopting a pet or using technology to stay connected to others. Educate friends and family members: Helping informal caregivers understand the community-based and home-based services available allows them to supplement their responsibilities and avoid burnout. This includes short-term respite care programs when needed. Dispel negative myths: People generally tend to focus on the negative aspects and challenges that come with aging. Educating the public and personal community about the positive aspects of aging helps to create a more supportive environment in which older adults can change their perspectives or celebrate their age.