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Caring for Seniors with Mental Health Illnesses

High quality caregiving incorporates all aspects of an individual’s health, from social to physical to mental well-being. Since mental health illnesses can have a direct impact on physical health, as well as quality of life, it is important to make mental health a priority when providing care for seniors.

Mental health illness is more common than most people realize. Nearly one in five adults in the United States live with a mental illness and many of them are seniors. Over two million seniors in the US are reported to suffer from depression alone. Sadly, the suicide rate in seniors ages 80 to 84 is more than twice that of the general population.

What Is A Mental Health Illness?

A mental health illness is a behavioral or mental pattern that causes significant impairment or distress of personal functioning. There are several types of mental health illnesses. The three main types include:

  • Thought Disorders: People experience psychosis and have a difficult time understanding what is real and what is not. An example of a thought disorder is schizophrenia.

  • Mood Disorders: People experience a dramatic shift in mood and have a difficult time regulating emotions. Examples of a mood disorder are bipolar disorder and major depression.

  • Anxiety Disorders: People experience an excessive rate of worry and stress. An example of an anxiety disorder is obsessive compulsive disorder.

While these are the three main types, there are some mental health illnesses that incorporate more than one category. In fact, most mental health illnesses have overlapping symptoms, which is one of the reasons diagnosis and treatment can be difficult.

Caring for Seniors with Mental Health Illnesses

The first step in providing high quality in-home care services is establishing a therapeutic relationship between caregivers and the seniors receiving care. Core values such as honoring a person’s dignity, autonomy, and personal preferences are the foundation of a therapeutic relationship.

A therapeutic relationship is different from a social relationship in that it is patient-centric. The focus is on the person receiving care, with the intention to promote positive changes, healing, and overall wellness. There are many aspects to maintaining a therapeutic relationship and incorporating mental health into care plans.

Compassionate Communication

Therapeutic relationships require communication that is both compassionate and goal-oriented. This means finding a balance of communicating gently and clearly. Listening, restating, asking for clarification, and giving validation are all examples of compassionate communication.

Establishing Boundaries

Caregiving is social by nature, and while the social relationship between caregivers and seniors is important, the therapeutic relationship is the one to always prioritize. Caregivers need to establish healthy, reasonable boundaries so that there is no confusion and to reduce potential misunderstandings. For example, having a clear discussion about tasks and responsibilities will help caregivers focus on fulfilling the goals outlined in the care plan.

Understanding Mental Illness

Individuals will have different mental health illnesses that require different aspects of care. It’s also important to understand that the symptoms from a mental health illness can differ from individual to individual. This means the approach to caring for seniors with mental health illnesses is two-fold: caregivers need to understand the specific mental health illness of an individual as well as how that individual experiences the illness in their own unique way.

Being able to fully understand an individual is one of the benefits of in-home care services. Since caregivers work one-on-one and have an ongoing relationship with clients, they are able to understand the unique needs and personalities of the people in their care.

Want more information about how we can care for seniors in Stockton or the surrounding areas? Give Alegre Home Care, one of the top home care agencies in Stockton and the nearby areas, a call today for a FREE CONSULTATION: (800) 598-4777


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