Published on April 25, 2023

5 Mental Health Concerns of Elderly Parents

As your parents grow older, learning more about their well-being and mental health is essential. With older adults comes a slew of physical health concerns that must be addressed promptly. However, there is an equal need to address mental health issues that may crop up at some point. Considering that more than 2 million of the elderly population lives with major depression, it’s essential to prioritize their mental health and prepare adequately for any challenges they may face along the way. Below are five major concerns in addressing the mental health needs of elderly parents.

Self-induced stigmatization

If you have ever been a primary caregiver for an aging parent, you may know how challenging it can be to address the stigma surrounding mental health. Several mental health reports indicate that the older generation is the group from whom much of the stigmatization arises. Having grown up in an era where mental health wasn’t openly discussed, it is difficult for many in this age group to accept it as any other health condition. Even among elderly parents themselves, you may face strong resistance against seeking help for depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders.

The general reluctance to talk about their mental health often makes it difficult to convince elderly parents to see a therapist, clinical psychologist, or psychiatrist. Unfortunately, this can be worrisome for you as an adult child trying to offer support. It would help to have open and honest conversations with your elderly parents. These chats must be focused on why seeking help benefits all parties involved. Moreover, by getting your elderly parents to understand that getting help for mental health is not a sign of weakness, you can get to them and give them the encouragement they need to take the next step.

Accessibility challenges

According to the National Council on Aging, accessibility to mental health care among older adults is quite concerning. A 2022 report indicated that less than 50% access such care, while the rest are left to their fate. Those covered usually benefit through their enrollment on Medicare. If you have elderly parents you care for, how difficult has it been to access mental health services for them? It would help to consider other factors, such as whether you live outside the city or your aging parent has in-home counseling services. While these can be major accessibility concerns, it’s important to note that transportation for elderly parents is another challenge. Considering who would drive your parents if you can’t drive them is best. 

Moreover, the lack of another caregiver in your absence can make it difficult for elderly parents to access crucial mental health services. Indeed, these challenges are predominant among those with mobility issues who live outside the city center where such facilities abound. With a little research, you can find telehealth mental health services for mild mental health cases. For major disorders, your elderly parent will have to move to a facility.

The need for more freedom

Several surveys indicate that older people often need privacy and freedom. While both are possible, it is not always the case, especially when aging persons deal with many health conditions. Indeed, the loss of independence and control may impact their mental health in one way or another. It is understandable why as an adult child, you want to step in immediately and start making decisions on your elderly parents’ behalf. However, that can take a huge toll on their self-esteem and confidence. Fortunately, if your aging parent isn’t dealing with severe mental health issues, you can discuss with them about the prospects of engaging an independent living community. You will likely get a positive response from an aging parent who wishes to have the freedom to explore safely. It is, however, important to read more about these independent living communities to see which ones offer the most helpful services for senior citizens. Doing this comparative analysis will help you decide on the best one and, of course, consider other factors like affordability.

Diminished health literacy

When you are younger, you can navigate health-related information and services easily. However, elderly parents with significant medical problems may not be able to do this as much as they’d like. Sometimes, their declining health literacy makes it challenging to properly understand their mental health problems. Many of them can’t detect the early signs of mental health problems. For example, depressive moods longer than two weeks, changes in appetite, and personal hygiene routines are some early signs a person can pick up on. Even when these signs are seen early, it is important for them to fully understand the treatment options and how they can be carried out. This step is particularly important if they must see the psychiatrist or therapist without you. Perhaps, you feel it’s important to give an aging parent the privacy needed with a therapist. Your decision can have advantages and disadvantages, making it important to tread cautiously at this stage.

Comorbidity issues

One in four aging parents over sixty-five has at least one mental health disorder. Research also reveals that three in four have a chronic medical condition requiring long-term treatment. According to mental health specialists, some medical conditions overlap with mental health disorders. For example, appetite loss, insomnia, and chronic fatigue are classic signs of depression. However, they could also indicate thyroid disorders or cancer. That is why comorbidity issues are a major concern when addressing the mental health needs of an elderly parent. These issues can hamper any progress made in mental health treatment. Certain medications used to treat severe mental health disorders are not to be taken when the individual has heart disease, hypertension, or Type 2 diabetes due to the fear of aggravated contraindications. Working with your aging parents’ healthcare providers to decide on better treatment plans will be crucial. 

In summary, whenever you must support an aging parent, remember that certain dynamics come to play here. Knowing what these are will help you make sound decisions that benefit them and yourself in the long run.


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