How to Assess the Mental Health and Wellbeing in Older Adults Remotely
The isolation and fear brought on by COVID-19 has had a profound impact on mental health and wellbeing in older adults. In a Kaiser Family Foundation poll, nearly one half of seniors surveyed stated that their level of stress and worry has adversely impacted their own health. And even though it still may be risky to visit in person with older adults, it’s critical to stay in frequent and regular contact in order to watch for any changes or signs which could indicate a mental health concern.
As psychiatrist Judith Feld, MD, MPH, states, “If a senior usually really enjoys a call with a grandchild, for example, but that seems to have changed, maybe you need to ask more questions, such as, ‘How can we be of help?’”
Additional warning signs of depression to watch for include sleeping problems, lack of appetite, sluggishness, and complaints about pain, which interestingly, can be one of the key symptoms of depression in seniors. Make a note of anything that is out of the ordinary for a senior’s character and personality.
It’s important to understand that depression is not just an unavoidable facet of getting older, and that it can be a serious – but treatable – condition.
Here are some further ideas to help effectively assess a senior’s psychological state:
- Make sure the conversation is organic and natural, without coming across as interrogating. Statements such as, “Tell me what’s been happening in your life this week,” will encourage a senior loved one to open up much more than, “Tell me what your physician mentioned at your last appointment.” The aim is to be caring but not condescending, being mindful never to parent your parents.
- While talking with and seeing the grandchildren on Zoom is a good option to boost an elderly loved one’s state of mind, make sure to allow for some one-on-one time for you to talk, sans children.
- Give consideration to what is going on in the background of your video chats for any further clues, for example, whether or not the house looks tidy and well maintained, as well as personal hygiene – unkempt, disheveled hair, for example.
- Take into consideration whether substance abuse could be a factor. A rise in alcohol consumption during the pandemic is happening in people of all ages, and may be especially harmful if there are potential interactions with medications the senior is taking.
If you suspect depression or any other mental health issues in the senior, make sure to get in touch with the physician as soon as possible. Because you are most familiar with the senior, you might be in a position to pick up on cues that the medical team misses during routine appointments, and it’s vital to make your concerns known.
If you have any concerns, connect with Hired Hands Homecare for further assistance. We can serve as your ears and eyes when you’re not able to be there in person, and provide a wide array of customized services to improve socialization and quality of life at home. Give us a call at (866) 940-4343 to find out more about our elderly care in Pleasanton and the surrounding communities.