We often notice the little changes in our loved ones first. A dent on a car. Laundry piling up. Bills left unpaid. A change in routine.
And as caregivers, we step in to get things done. We become fixers. We work to ensure our loved ones receive the care that they need.
But what we often overlook is their mental health.
As changes occur as people age, they may gradually accept help from their loved ones. They may internalize the changes without letting on how they feel. And that can come out in the form of depression.
A report put out by the Center for Disease Control has stated that 20 percent of Americans over the age of 55 will experience a mental health issue. That includes anxiety, depression, or other serious cognitive impairments.
It’s often difficult to recognize the signs. If your loved one is already experiencing complications from chronic conditions like dementia or Alzheimer’s how do you recognize mental health issues above and beyond? That’s why it’s often misdiagnosed and left untreated even when seeing medical professionals on a regular basis.
If an older person expresses feelings of hopelessness, pessimism, has changes in appetite or sleep patterns, or frequently complains of aches and pains that don’t improve with treatment, it could be a sign of something more.
There are two ways to deal with this as a caregiver.
First, recognize changes in your loved one. If you notice mood swings and radical changes in behavior, bring it up at your loved one’s next medical visit. Medication management may be required to get dosages where it helps their outlook on life.
Second, work to improve quality of life. What brings joy into your lives? What little things can you do to have impact? What brought joy into their lives in the past? It’s the little things that matter most. And even small activities can have major impact on their health.
Happiness doesn’t have to go away just because we have chronic conditions or push age limits. No matter how old we get, we can appreciate everything we have, every day of our lives.
If you suspect your loved one might need help with mental health too, step in and find the help you need.