Health Senior Living

Month: September 2021 (page 1 of 1)

Senior Mental Health: 6 Ways to Improve Cognition & Emotion as We Age

Memory problems, cognitive decline and a growing loneliness epidemic, all make seniors especially vulnerable to mental health issues.

According to a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) study of mental health in older adults aged 55+, it is estimated that 20% of seniors experience some type of mental health concern. The most common conditions include anxiety, severe cognitive impairment and mood disorders, such as depression or bipolar depression.

Common mental health issues like anxiety and depression can have a negative impact on physical health and wellness for seniors. The CDC states that these conditions, especially mood disorders, can lead to impairments in physical, mental and social functioning and can affect and complicate the treatment of other chronic disorders.

Although the rate of older adults with mental health conditions tends to increase with age, depression and other illnesses are not a normal part of aging.

A photo of scared-looking senior man, looking at his reflection in a window.

The good news about Senior Mental Health

The good news about senior mental health is that it is a treatable condition. In addition to the possibility of clinical intervention through the use of prescribed medications or therapy, there are a number of activities and resources available to help keep older adults engaged and in good mental health and spirits.

Staying connected and maintaining strong, meaningful social connections with friends and family goes a long way towards preventing mental health issues in seniors. The CDC reports that social support is associated with reduced risk of mental illness, physical illness and even mortality.

A variety of avenues exist—many at no cost—for older adults to stay sharp and boost their mood.

6 Ways to Improve Mental Health in Seniors

As circumstances and family dynamics change, active retirement living and adult day health programs can offer seniors a supportive community and social environment to keep up with the activities they love and even introduce them to some new ones!

With that in mind, here is our seniors’ guide to improving and maintaining good senior mental health and well-being.

1. Play Mind Games

Just as the body needs physical activity and stimulation to stay healthy, the brain needs stimulation to stay sharp and avoid cognitive decline as we age. According to Harvard Health Publishing, brain games can help sharpen certain thinking skills such as processing speed, planning skills, reaction time, decision making and short-term memory.

Any activity that keeps the mind engaged and working towards solving problems contributes to brain health, but some of the most common and accessible activities for seniors include:

  • Reading and writing
    • Studies have proven that reading can enhance memory function, reduce stress and promote better sleep. Journaling can also help to manage and alleviate the effects of stress and anxiety.
  • Learning a new language
    • Language learning exercises regions of the brain often affected by aging and can build confidence and even increase socialization with others who may know or are learning the language.
  • Playing an instrument
    • Music stimulates the brain and improves memory in seniors with Alzheimer’s and dementia. According to The Washington Post, not only is playing, or learning to play, an instrument fun, but it can improve verbal fluency and processing speed within a matter of months.
  • Playing puzzles and games
    • In addition to being enjoyable, various puzzles have proven to delay memory decline and enhance senior mental health.

2. Get Physical

A photo of an older couple doing exercises.

From taking regular walks to yoga classes and ballroom dancing, exercise and physical activity benefit both the mind and the body by boosting confidence and reducing the risk of falls. Staying active and getting enough exercise are as important for seniors’ mental health and older adults’ well-being, as they are at any other stage of life.

In fact, low-impact exercises like stretching and strength training are actually necessary to help seniors stay healthy and reduce the risk of common age-related problems like bone fractures, joint pain, and other chronic illnesses.

In addition to the physical benefits, exercise can also help manage stress, anxiety and depression in seniors, which can be just as detrimental to seniors’ health as physical ailments and injuries. Exercising in order to maintain positive senior mental health is important.Diagnosis: Alzheimer’s Disease or Dementia
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3. Stay Connected with Friends

Time and distance can make it difficult for people to maintain close relationships with old friends, especially as they age.

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Cultivate Friendships

The Internet and the phone keep pals old and new in touch.

For older adults, keeping in touch with the important people in their lives can help to stave off loneliness and feelings of isolation that can lead to depression, as well as mental and physical decline.

Learning how to connect with new and old friends on social media, through FaceTime, Zoom or Skype are just some ways to stay in touch. There are always people willing to teach older adults how to use these different applications, as well as online tutorials. Seniors can also keep it simple by writing letters or setting up a regular schedule for a good old-fashioned phone call.

And like anyone, seniors can always make new friends!

4. Pick up a New Hobby

Close up of earthenware in potter's hands. Artist making ornament on ceramic product.

Staying active after retirement is extremely important. Everyone has a personal wish list of dreams and activities, but sometimes those ideas are put off because life can get busy.

Retirement is the perfect time for seniors to dust off their “bucket list” and pursue lifelong goals, be it gardening, sewing, painting or French cooking!

Hobbies like shadow boxes help increase the neuroplasticity of the brain in which nerve cells connect or reconnect, changing the brain’s structure and function when stimulated through the repetition of seeing them.

As neuronal connections in these pathways are strengthened, and new connections are established, individuals feel comforted and gain an increased sense of belonging and ultimately, improving senior mental health.

5. Volunteering

Many seniors find fulfillment and a sense of purpose in volunteering for a worthy cause.

With no shortage of organizations and causes in need of support, there are many opportunities for older adults to get involved, and in turn, feel valued and needed.

Seniors volunteering for a cause or organization can be a rewarding experience at any age.

For someone looking to donate their time after retirement, volunteering can offer a number of additional benefits that enhance seniors’ physical, emotional and mental health.

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Trading time for good causes can enhance mental health.

Whether you enjoy reading to or sharing your skills and expertise with children and young students, or you feel moved to volunteer in a hospital, local food pantry or soup kitchen, volunteering in retirement can help seniors remain active, socially engaged, and become part of a vibrant and diverse community.

From making new friends to getting (or staying) physically active, volunteering can be a rewarding experience for everyone involved.

6. Caring for a Pet

A photo of a senior woman hugging her poodle dog.

Where appropriate, animals can help keep seniors active and busy and offer companionship in the process, with their unconditional love.

According to the CDC, many studies have shown that the bond between humans and their pets can increase fitness, lower stress and bring happiness.

Other health benefits of having a pet include:

  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Decreased feelings of loneliness
  • Increased opportunities for socialization

If you don’t want to or are unable to own a pet, volunteering at an animal shelter is also a good way to connect with animals and help organizations in need.…

Behavioral Health at Any Age: No One Needs to Struggle Alone

Many areas of behavioral health can be something of a mystery to the general public. Myths and misconceptions about mental health and substance use are often significant obstacles to looking out for the well-being of ourselves and our loved ones. Talking about suicide does NOT plant the idea in someone’s head. Many mental health conditions are preventable. Depression is NOT a normal part of aging.

Let’s focus on that last one. It’s worth repeating; experiencing feelings of depression is not a given as we grow older. However, behavioral health problems like depression often go undiagnosed in older adults.

Older adults as well as their loved ones and even their healthcare providers sometimes dismiss symptoms of depression as “normal” signs of frailty – inevitably, our bodies grow physically weaker as we age. However, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)notes that many equivocate symptoms of depression with the physical weaknesses of aging, leading them to ignore these indicators of a potential mental health issue.

Others believe that feelings of depression are just the natural result of changes in life that typically happen to older adults. Major life events more common to older adults – such as retirement, the death of a loved one, or moving out of the family home – can be stressors that impact our behavioral health.

Facing the loss of someone or something important to us, we all feel sadness at times, but such episodes need not necessarily lead to depression. In fact, “many older adults will eventually adjust to the changes. But some people will have more trouble adjusting,” says the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Being unable to grieve and move on to prior feelings after a loss may be a sign of depression – in individuals of any age.

So What IS Different About Depression in Older Adults?

  • Just as symptoms of depression may differ between women and men, older adults may experience a different range of symptoms than younger individuals. Memory problems, confusion, vague complaints of pain, and/or delusions (“fixed false beliefs”) can indicate depression in older adults in addition to more typical symptoms such as loss of appetite, inability to sleep, or irritability (National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)).
  • The Centers for Disease Control (CDC)reports that depression is more common in those who have another illness, and “we know that about 80% of older adults have at least one chronic health condition, and 50% have two or more.” This higher likelihood of having a physical illness puts older adults at greater risk of depression.
  • For older adults, the interplay of mental and physical health issues works both ways – not only does the presence of some chronic illnesses increase the likelihood of experiencing a behavioral health condition, but some mental health problems like depression – if untreated – can increase risk for heart disease, suppress the immune system, and elevate the danger of infection (NAMI).
  • The World Health Organization points out that while older adults may experience the stressors common to everyone that can weigh against behavioral health, they may also experience stressors unique to them. Reduced mobility, chronic pain, bereavement, change in socioeconomic status due to retirement, and frailty or other health problems are all additional factors that can have a negative impact on the mental health or substance use of older adults.

Closing the “Treatment Gap”

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) describes a “treatment gap:” while at least 1 in 4 older adults experiences some mental health problem, two-thirds of those individuals do not receive the treatment they need. The first step in connecting those struggling with their behavioral health to treatment and recovery options is to identify the issue.

A great place to start if you’re worried about your mental health or substance use – or that of a loved one – is with a quick, anonymous online behavioral health screening. In about two minutes, you can find out if what you’re experiencing is consistent with symptoms of depression, anxiety, or other behavioral health conditions. If you’re concerned about a loved one – regardless of their age – encourage them to take a screening. No one needs to struggle alone.

If you or a loved one needs immediate mental health or addiction support, do not hesitate to call your insurance company or family doctor, or call 888-545-2600 if you have Medicaid coverage. You can find additional resources that support older adult mental health here.

If your loved one is ever in crisis, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text the word, “ACT” to the Crisis Text Line at 741741

Author: MindWise Innovations, a Healthy Minds Philly screening partner.

How To Select The Best Chiropractor

4 Signs You Should See a Chiropractor | U.S. News

Chiropractic is a profession with a wide variety of practice philosophies and techniques, which makes it a challenge to select a chiropractor who is most compatible for an individual. Because the chiropractic treatment includes hands-on procedures, consideration must be given for both the preference of treatment style as well as the rapport with the chiropractor.

This article outlines questions to ask when interviewing a doctor of chiropractic and provides guidelines for what to expect of chiropractic care. It also highlights some red flags that may indicate questionable treatment and/or practice management approaches.advertisement

Collecting Recommendations

One place to start is to ask a primary care physician, physical therapist, or spine specialist for recommendations of chiropractors who they view as competent and trustworthy. One way to phrase this question is: “If someone in your family needed a chiropractor, who would you recommend?” However, many medical professionals lack regular interaction with chiropractors and therefore may not be able to provide a recommendation.

It also helps to ask friends, co-workers, and neighbors for recommendations. While these recommendations can be valuable, keep in mind that one person’s definition of the best chiropractor may be quite different from another person’s definition. It is important to find a chiropractor who can meet an individual’s specific needs.

In general, a chiropractor who is recommended by multiple people is likely to be reliable.

Interviewing a Chiropractor

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Before starting treatment, it is usually best to conduct a telephone interview or request an in-office consultation to learn more about the chiropractor, the clinic, and techniques used. The treating chiropractor will typically request a personal consultation to discuss these details.

For most people, it is important to feel comfortable with the chiropractor and to have an overall positive experience at the clinic. Feeling comfortable is relative and depends on personal preferences, including details such as how long a patient may typically have to wait in the waiting room or the location of the chiropractor’s office.

Questions to consider about rapport and experience with a chiropractor and/or clinic staff during an initial interview may include one or more of the following:

  1. Is the chiropractor friendly and courteous?
  2. Does the patient feel comfortable talking with the chiropractor?
  3. Does the chiropractor fully answer all questions asked by the patient?
  4. Does the chiropractor listen to the patient’s complete explanation of symptoms and treatment concerns/preferences?
  5. How many years has the chiropractor been in practice?

See What to Expect at the First Chiropractic Consultation

Another consideration is whether the chiropractor has a specific undergraduate or post-graduate specialty. While not necessary, some chiropractors pursue post-graduate programs in various specialties, such as orthopedics, sports medicine, rehabilitation, neurology, or nutrition.

See Chiropractor Educational Requirementsadvertisement

Background Research

Questions to Ask Your Chiropractor

Patients may want to research if there are any disciplinary actions against the chiropractor. This information is available from each state’s chiropractic regulation and licensing board, which can usually be found on the state’s website.

Patients can also check to determine if their chiropractor’s college is accredited by the Council on Chiropractic Education.First Chiropractic Exam Video

Selecting any health care professional for treatment is something that should be done with care. Do not feel compelled to be treated by the first chiropractor interviewed. Many people interview several chiropractors before selecting one they feel is well suited to treat their condition.

The bottom line is that the chiropractor’s role is to recommend the course of care for the patient, and it is the patient’s decision whether or not to accept that doctor’s recommendations. Patients should never feel like a doctor is pressuring them into a treatment or payment decision. Contact us for more information.