Currently, the geriatric population is the fastest growing population in the world; in fact, the current number of seniors in the U.S. exceeds 40 million. As people live longer, the elderly population is expected to reach 72 million by 2030. Medical professionals receive very little training when it comes to the mental health of seniors, which is concerning since this is the age group with the highest rate of suicide. Caregivers and medical professionals know the signs that indicate depression. While medication may be necessary, there are other ways a caregiver can assist a patient who is experiencing depression, at least until his or her medication takes effect.
Adult Coloring Books
Art therapists and researchers have been touting the calming benefits of coloring for more than 10 years; however, this form of stress relief has just recently received acknowledgement. The editors of Yoga Journal and researchers from Johns Hopkins University are suggesting individuals use coloring as a substitute for meditation. Just like when an individual meditates, coloring requires focus: This allows the patient to concentrate on the here and now, switching off any other thoughts that may be causing him or her stress/anxiety.
Now, coloring in an adult coloring book is being used to reduce anxiety and create focus; furthermore, using coloring as a means of therapy can also result in an improved mindfulness. ColoringBooks.net recommends that adults use colored pencils as opposed to crayons because precision is everything.
A Weighted Blanket
Applying deep pressure through the use of weighted blankets and vests has been known to produce a calming, relaxing effect. In the Journal of Sleep Medicine and Disorders, a research article discusses the benefits of a weighted blanket for the elderly. According to this article, a weighted blanket may help seniors who suffer with insomnia, dementia and anxiety. The National Sleep Foundation states that Individuals who suffer with insomnia are much more likely to become depressed than an individual who is sleeping well.
A variety of studies have established the connection between mental and physical health. While maintaining a healthy lifestyle in and of itself may not provide adequate treatment for depression, there are certain habits a caregiver can help a patient implement into his or her schedule: Habits that provide the patient substantial benefits when it comes to his or her mental health. One such habit is ensuring the patient consumes an adequate amount of omega-3 fatty acids every day.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, regularly consuming foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids (or taking supplements) can help treat and prevent several mental illnesses, one of which is depression. Moreover, research suggests that increasing the intake of omega-3 fatty acids can reduce the risk of cognitive decline; thus, helping protect patients against conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
In a June 2014 interview, Psychologist Deborah Serani, Psy.D., told the American Psychological Association that there is a lot of science reiterating how helpful journaling and expressive language writing are for maintaining mental well-being. Serani states that she encourages her patients to participate in activities, such as blogging and other expressive arts including music, art, or dance classes.
The National survey of yoga practitioners: Mental and physical health benefits is a study published in the Internationally Renowned Journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine. This study investigates the effects that practicing yoga has on an individual’s health characteristics. Surveys were provided to the participants of the study (ages ranging from 19 to 87 years).
A total of 1,045 surveys were returned and the results of the study are as follows:
- Nearly 85 percent of respondents noticed an increase in their energy levels.
- Almost 90 percent felt happier.
- Roughly 70 percent noticed an improvement in their social relationships.
- Around 60 percent noticed an improvement in their weight.
- Approximately 70 percent slept better.
There are yoga poses designed specifically for individuals who are unable to stand or have limited movement; therefore, even if a senior patient is bound to a wheelchair, he or she can still perform yoga.
In 2012, a meditation study was published in the Scientific Review of Mental Health Practices. This comprehensive study took into account more than 250 published studies, all of which related to meditation. All in all, researchers investigated 45 years of research that outlined various meditation techniques. The researchers’ goal was to determine how meditation influences an individual’s mental and physical health. The results of this study support the value of meditation: The majority of findings indicate that meditation practices cultivate a positive psychological well-being.
Support Groups/Self-Help Tools
According to Pew Research Center, nearly 60 percent of seniors over the age of 65 use the Internet: Although these seniors are computer savvy, there are those who are not. If these seniors want to join an online support group, they will need help from their caregiver. Caregivers who have mobile devices can assist their patients by signing them up for a support group and helping them get started.
Support groups have a therapeutic effect. When individuals with similar circumstances connect, they can relate to one another. Many times, a patient conversing with others who understand and accept him or her can lessen feelings of isolation. Openly communicating about the challenges associated with mental illness is emotionally beneficial; furthermore, support group members can offer advice as to the techniques that help them manage their symptoms.