Many people in their senior years struggle with mental illness. In fact, approximately 14 to 20 percent of seniors have at least one mental health challenge, according to the National Academy of Sciences. At first, symptoms might be subtle — changes in mood, changes in sleep patterns or decreased appetite — but over time, these symptoms can worsen and become more serious and concerning.
Having a conversation, however, to discuss your concerns can feel stressful and emotionally draining. So what’s the best way to approach the topic and move your loved one toward a better quality of life?
Tips for an Easier Discussion on Mental Illness
You might have many concerns about speaking with your loved one, and among them might be the risk of an outburst or emotional upset. But there are a few actions you can take that will ease the stress, hopefully reducing resistance on your loved one’s part. Here are a few tips:
Select the best time of day. Is there a time of day when your loved one’s mood is better? If so, select that time. If not, don’t worry. You can still have a productive conversation; you’ll just need to be patient and persistent.
Take an easy first step. All of your concerns don’t need to be discussed upfront. Instead, focus on a single concern that is mildly agitating to your loved one, and then encourage them to visit the doctor. You can discuss your worries about your loved one with your doctor ahead of time, and then work together on treatment options. This may include medication, which could improve your loved one’s mood and make future conversations more productive.
Seek power of attorney. Once your loved one is feeling better, it may be time to discuss a medical power of attorney. This will grant you the ability to make medical decisions on your loved one’s behalf. Having this in place makes it easier to care for your loved one, and to get them the medical attention and treatment required.
Don’t give up. The first conversation may not be effective, and that’s OK. Keep trying. Attempt different approaches, and also realize when a conversation isn’t going anywhere and try again later.
Get resources for yourself. Handling your loved one’s mental health challenges is emotionally taxing, and oftentimes you may need some assistance in managing the situation. If so, reach out to support groups, talk with trusted family members and get the emotional support that you need for self-care.