How to support older adults with health challenges


Since our loved ones may struggle in the next chapter, it is important to know other ways that family members and friends can help.

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  • Wali Acevedo has over 20 years of experience in counseling and therapy.

For many, one of the advantages of turning third – between 65 and 84 – is to pursue retirement and eventually have more free time. However, being older may also present some new challenges that people may not always think of.

Some of these challenges can be the development of physical or chronic health problems, psychological problems or illnesses, and reduced social interaction.

Navigating in pre-retirement ages may be more difficult due to healthcare concerns (“cardiovascular disease, hypertension, cancer”) and incredibly isolation due to lack of social inclusion and stigma. At this point in an older adult’s life, they go through many transformations.

Many of these transitions can change lives, such as the exposure of older friends to physical or chronic illness, death, loss of fixed income, or loss of mobility. It becomes increasingly difficult in the journey to receive proper mental and physical health care without challenges.

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Older adults receiving health care face many other barriers, including inadequate insurance coverage, affordability of care, a shortage of trained elderly mental health providers, and a lack of comprehensive programs and services. According to research, it is estimated that up to 63% of elderly people with mental disorders do not receive the necessary services.

As our loved ones may struggle in the next chapter of their lives, it is important to know other ways in which family members and friends can help:

educate others

“Educate your friends and family about mental illness and provide factual information to replace any stigma,” Acevedo says.

Try to educate others that mental health should be taken care of like any other medical problem. Remind others that it can be harmful to call someone a mental illness – remember that they are a person, and their illness does not define them.

advocacy

Communicate with representatives about more comprehensive legislation surrounding better insurance coverage for mental health services and treatment for seniors. Try to emphasize the demand for collaborative communication between physical and mental health providers and the growing need for providers of mental and physical health services for the elderly.

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social support

Seniors need to be reminded by loved ones that they are still valuable, talented and powerful.

Try to stay in touch with your loved ones and take the time to listen to them. Encourage older loved ones to engage in hobbies they enjoy or get involved in local or online communities, and support groups and forums for more social interaction.

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normalization of treatment

Therapy may be useful for those who need it, and it may benefit others in reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety. Try to talk more openly about your daily struggles to help encourage others to seek support and remove any shame or stigma associated with treatment or receiving treatment.



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Being older does not mean that you are less important. Be there for the seniors in your life and remind them of their value. If you or someone you know is struggling with loneliness or other mental health issues, Centerstone can help.

Call 1-877-HOPE123 (1-877-467-3123) for more information about our counseling services.

Wally Acevedo is a licensed clinical social worker with over 20 years of experience in counseling and therapy. Acevedo currently focuses on the mental health needs of adults, three-year-olds, and those dealing with chronic health and pain problems.

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