6 Ways Seniors Can Improve Their Mental Health

Posted: 5/3/2022 1:19 PM by Interim HealthCare
We often talk openly about the ways we can take care of our physical health–exercising, eating healthy, and going to the doctor regularly. But for whatever reason, the topic of mental health still seems a bit taboo. Even though 1 in 5 people will experience a mental illness during their lifetime, most don’t feel comfortable talking about what they’re going through and or discussing their symptoms with others.
May is Mental Health Month, and it’s the perfect time to break the stigma around discussing mental illness and the symptoms countless people suffer from year-round. 

According to Mental Health America, addressing symptoms early is critical. Though there are certain factors out of your control that can impact mental health (chronic medical conditions, genetics, or various environmental conditions) there are protective measures that can prevent a mental health condition from developing and can also keep your symptoms from becoming too severe.

1. Know you’re not alone
About half of all Americans will meet the criteria for a diagnosable mental health condition at some point in their life. For the majority, symptoms typically start by age 24. However, those younger and older can certainly experience symptoms of mental illness, as well. 
When facing a mental health concern or living with a mental health condition, it’s common to feel like no one understands what you’re going through. If you’re experiencing feelings of sadness or depression, or if you feel overwhelmed or anxious, try talking with a close family member or friend about what’s bothering you. If confiding in someone close to you isn’t an option, try talking with a professional counselor or a psychiatrist. 

2. Make time to find happiness in everyday life
According to a recent study, happy people don't just enjoy life, they increase their chances of living longer. In fact, experts say by following these few tips from Mental Health America, you can live a longer life, too:
  • Form meaningful relationships with relatives, friends, and acquaintances.
  • Get involved in social activities, including those that are worship-related.
  • Appreciate the simple pleasures, such as keeping to a regular schedule, taking a walk in the park, or spending time with a friend.
  • Learn not to sweat small stressors. Try to look at the bigger picture and spend your energy on what really matters to you. 
  • Do something to help others. 
  • Find value in your work, hobbies, or volunteering. 
3. Learn the signs of depression as you age
Contrary to what you may hear about aging, depression is not a “normal” part of getting older. It is a medical problem that affects many older adults and can often be successfully treated. Depression is often under-recognized and under-treated in older adults.
Without treatment, depression can impair an older adult’s ability to function and enjoy life and may contribute to poor overall health. 
As you and your loved ones grow older, be sure you are familiar with the following signs of depression:
  • Depressed mood
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Lack of energy
  • Feelings of worthlessness or extreme guilt
  • Difficulties with concentration or decision making
  • Noticeable restlessness or slow movement
  • Frequent thoughts of death or suicide or attempting suicide
4. Take a mental health screening
Life can be challenging, but every day shouldn’t feel hard or out of your control. If it does, try taking a mental health screening to determine if you’re experiencing symptoms of a serious condition that needs to be addressed. Mental Health America has a free screening tool that you can use to assess the state of your current mental health. Your screening results can be used to start a conversation with a close friend, family member, or your primary care provider, that way you can begin a course of action to address your mental health.

5. Realize it’s never too early to seek treatment
A lot of people spend months or years facing mental health challenges before they get a true medical diagnosis. It is never too early to seek treatment for your mental health. Intervening effectively during the early stages can save your life and it’s critically important for people living with mental health conditions. 
Worrying about health insurance costs should never be a barrier to treatment. Visit Medicare’s QuickCheck® resource center to get estimated treatment costs and to learn more about the mental health services available to you through Medicare.

6. Reach out for help immediately if you are in crisis
Starting July 16, 2022, you can dial 988 from any phone, and at any time, for matters related to your mental health status. By simply dialing 988, you will be connected to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which is staffed by trained crisis counselors 24/7, 365 days a year.
We encourage you to follow these tips all year, not just during Mental Health Month. Be sure to prioritize your mental health just as you do your physical health and reach out if you need help.