Each year, October 10th is designated as “World Mental Health Day” by the UN. This year’s theme is “Our minds, our rights,” meant to bring awareness that mental health is a universal human right. While each person’s situation is unique, everyone deserves to achieve their highest possible standard of mental health.
As the Canadian population continues to age, it becomes increasingly important to address the mental health challenges that seniors face. Research shows that 1 in 4 Canadians over the age of 65 is currently living with mental illness and that up to 15% of seniors suffer from depression. Seniors are a unique group, as they are less likely to report mental health disorders, less likely to be referred to therapy services, and less likely to seek support for mental health challenges (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9388363/).
What Mental Health Issues Do Seniors Face?
As the Canadian Coalition for Seniors’ Mental Health reminds us, “Mental illness is not a normal part of aging.” It’s important to take preventative measures to ensure the emotional wellbeing of older adults. Risk factors that contribute to the vulnerability of seniors include long-term illness, chronic pain, sleep disturbances, loss of mobility, loss of loved ones, and poor nutrition. These factors make it more likely seniors will experience mental health challenges such as:
Depression is a common mental health issue among seniors. In Canada, it is estimated that between 10 and 15% of seniors aged 65 and older live with depression. Symptoms may include persistent sadness/irritability, loss of interest in activities, changes in appetite, and sleep disturbances.
Seniors may be particularly susceptible to anxiety due to life transitions, such as retirement or health concerns. Anxiety disorders, such as generalized anxiety disorder and social anxiety disorder, lead to excessive worry, restlessness, and physical symptoms like palpitations and trembling.
Dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, is a significant concern for seniors. In Canada, over 600,000 people are living with Alzheimer’s or a related dementia, and two-thirds of them are women. Symptoms include memory loss, poor judgment, language problems, and difficulty performing daily tasks.
Seniors’ Home Care Services and Mental Health
Home care services play a vital role in supporting the mental health of seniors. They provide personalized care that addresses both physical and emotional needs of the individual. Below are some ways that in-home care can enhance the mental wellbeing of seniors.
Companionship: Approximately 28% of Canadians over the age of 65 live alone (vs. 14% of the general population). Loneliness has been linked to decreased mental and physical health. Home care providers can offer companionship such as playing games, reading, or just sitting and chatting. Regular visits and enjoyable activities enhance the quality of life for seniors at home.
Medication Reminders: Many seniors take medications to manage health conditions. Home care professionals can assist by ensuring that prescriptions are taken as directed, reducing the risk of medication-related mental health issues.
Support with Daily Activities: Seniors who struggle with daily tasks due to physical limitations can experience frustration and a sense of helplessness. Home care services provide assistance with bathing, grooming, dressing, meals, and more. These essential tasks help seniors maintain their dignity and self-esteem.
Transportation: Being unable to drive or access transportation can result in social isolation and missing important appointments. Home care providers can help seniors get to and from medical appointments, community events, and more.
Monitoring Mental Health: Personal Support Workers and other health care aides are trained to recognize signs of mental health issues. They can monitor a senior’s emotional well-being and alert family members or healthcare providers if concerns arise.
Regardless of age, mental health is a critical aspect of overall wellbeing, and Canadian seniors have unique vulnerabilities. Home care services are an invaluable resource in supporting the mental health of seniors. At Just Like Family Home Care, we believe that taking a proactive approach to mental health will help ensure that Canadian seniors enjoy a higher quality of life in their golden years. If you or a loved one is interested in learning more, please reach out anytime.
For more information on mental health resources for Canadian seniors, please visit the Canadian Mental Health Association’s Seniors and Aging page.