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National Mental Health Awareness Month Caring Well for America’s Senior Adults

True: An estimated 20 percent of people age 55 and older experience some degree of a mental health issue.

True: The risk for mental illness increases with age. False: Mental and emotional health conditions are well-diagnosed and quickly treated.

Each year, nearly 44 million adults in America experience mental health concerns ranging from anxiety and depression to post-traumatic stress and suicidal thoughts. In 1946, President Harry Truman signed the National Mental Health Act, which helped establish the National Institute of Mental Health. By presidential proclamation, May is designated as National Mental Health Awareness Month, a call for helping those living with mental health conditions to get the resources and acceptance they need. Older Americans in particular are vulnerable to unrecognized and untreated forms of mental illness.

Depression is the most common mental health condition among America’s seniors. Other prevalent cognitive and emotional health problems among the elderly include dementia, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder and social phobia. More serious diagnoses such as schizophrenia and personality disorders persistently diminish the quality of life and daily functioning for seniors.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that annually about one-quarter of U.S. senior adults commit suicide — men 85 years and older are four times more likely to take their life than any other age group. Mental health struggles often adversely affect the overall health of aging adults. Depressed seniors or those dealing with emotional concerns neglect eating well, getting regular exercise, maintaining the home and interacting socially.

“The stigma of mental illness weighs heavily on America’s older generation,” said Glenn Fechtenburg, RN. Right at Home The Villages, Lake & Sumter Counties. “A perceived negativity about mental health can lead to people avoiding seniors or assuming elders are unstable, simpleminded or even dangerous. A lack of understanding can fuel judgment and discrimination. This is why gaining accurate facts about mental illness is important for each affected individual and society in general.”

Older adults often face a number of life stressors that heighten psychological distress. Many seniors experience chronic pain, restricted mobility, bereavement, loneliness and a loss of independence — all which can impact mental and emotional health. Countless older military veterans carry post-war wounds to their psychological health. In addition, medical conditions such as diabetes and heart disease can worsen depression and other mental health disabilities in seniors.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness estimates that one in 25 Americans lives with a serious mental health condition. While only about 60 percent of individuals with a mental illness receive mental health care, effective treatments are available for the majority of mental health conditions. A first step is to meet with a physician or mental health practitioner, but common recovery measures combine medication and psychotherapy. Treatment and disease management depend on the underlying condition.

Warning signs of mental illness are not always easy to detect, but Fechtenburg, RN pinpoints the following behaviors as signals that something may be amiss with one’s mental well-being:
•Ongoing sadness or feeling blue
•Extreme mood swings including euphoric highs
•Intense worry or fear
•Uncontrolled, compulsive actions such as overspending or excessive cleaning
•Heightened irritability or anger
•Confusion or lack of concentration
•Sleep difficulties
•Trouble perceiving reality such as having delusions or hallucinations
•Marked changes in eating habits
•Several physical illnesses without obvious causes (headaches, vague aches and pains)
•Suicidal thoughts
•Withdrawal from family and friends
•Overuse of alcohol or drugs

An elder may have limited access to care or may be in denial about mental challenges, but family members and a supportive circle of extended family can secure help for their loved one Fechtenburg, RN recommends that family caregivers connect with a number of support resources, including the Right at Home RightConversationsSM guide ( www.rightathome.net/right-conversations ) that helps an ailing senior and concerned family caregivers engage in constructive dialogue about a need for care assistance. As a leader in senior care services, Right at Home assists elders and adult disabled clients with comprehensive care needs from medication monitoring and meal preparation to surgery recovery and transportation.

To better manage mental health, patients and their loved ones are encouraged to learn identifying triggers and stressors that aggravate the condition. Developing a written recovery and wellness plan may also help.

“National Mental Health Awareness Month is a reminder to not let illness of any type define a person,” Fechtenburg, RN notes. “There may be a time in life when any of us could need support with managing our mental health. Those living with mental health conditions, and their families as well, need to know they are not alone. We can all look out for each other in safeguarding and improving our emotional and mental health.”

For additional information about National Mental Health Awareness Month and mental health resources, visit Mental Health America at http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/may or MentalHealth.gov at https://www.mentalhealth.gov.
RightConversationsSM guide – https://www.rightathome.net/right-conversations

About Right at Home
Founded in 1995, Right at Home offers in-home companionship, personal care and assistance to seniors and disabled adults who want to continue to live independently. Right at Home’s global office is based in Omaha, Nebraska, with offices located in 45 states nationwide and throughout the world. For more information on Right at Home, visit About Right at Home at http://www.rightathome.net/about-us or read the Right at Home caregiving blog at http://www.rightathome.net/blog. To sign up for Right at Home’s free adult caregiving e-newsletter, Caring Right at Home, visit http://caringnews.com.

About Right at Home of The Villages, Lake and Sumter Counties
The Villages, Lake and Sumter Counties office of Right at Home is a licensed home health agency that specializes in helping seniors stay independent in their home. All caregivers are directly employed and supervised, each of whom is thoroughly screened, trained, and bonded/insured prior to entering a client’s home. Our services range from providing transportation to and from appointments to full one on one nursing care for you or your loved one. For more information, contact Right at Home of The Villages, Lake and Sumter Counties at WWW.RAHFL.com, 352-835-0101 or by email at Info@rahfl.com

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