Mental health concerns are becoming more apparent in older adults, yet the stigma of mental illness often prevents them from seeking help. Life events such as loss of a spouse or child, giving up the car keys, chronic illness, associated pain, isolation, and even retirement can bring on mental health challenges for older adults.
The CDC estimates that 20% of people aged 55 years or older experience some type of mental health concern. The most common conditions include anxiety and mood disorders (such as depression or bipolar affective disorder). Suicide among older adults is a silent epidemic and does not get the type of attention that suicide among children and young adults receives; family and friends often struggle to talk about it.
Baby boomers and their parents grew up in a time when you were expected to continue on with life no matter how you were feeling. "When the going gets tough, the tough get going" was often the expression of this generation. People were often viewed as weak for seeking any type of help, especially help with their mental health.
Adult children can find it difficult to bring up mental health in conversation with an aging parent. The key is to share your concerns without minimizing the person you are talking to. Helping them understand you want to help with their overall well-being that includes more than traditional medical appointments is one way to broach the topic. Asking your loved ones how they feel without using words such as "depression" or "anxiety" is a great first step to get them to start talking about their mental health.
In the video below, hear four clinicians share ways you can make mental health approachable for your loved one.
If you are caregiving for a loved one and would like to get connected with others in our community who are walking the same path, join ABC11's Caregivers Corner moderated by Nicole Clagett. The group has 1900+ people supporting one another and sharing wonderful information and resources daily. More helpful tips about this topic can be found on ABC11's Caregivers Corner section.