In the last few years, mental health in the UK has gained increasing attention due to the growing number of people suffering from diseases such as mood and emotional disorders, as well as the increasing number of suicides. According to Mental Health.org The British population is aging rapidly. Over the past 30 years, the number of people over 65 has increased by almost half. Longer lives are cause for celebration, but more older people suffer from mental health problems.
The World Health Organization found that 15% of adults aged 60 and over have a mental disorder. Older adults are at risk of developing mental health, neurological, and substance problems, as well as other health problems such as diabetes, hearing loss, and osteoarthritis. Mental health disorders often result from a mixture of health conditions that appear as we age.
The impact of the global pandemic that resulted in a national lockdown, and the effects of social distancing rules, isolation, and quarantine have put a huge strain on the mental health of many of us. Charities like Mind, Samaritans, and Calm have all reported an increase in people seeking their advice and support.
This article by The Live in Care Company explores a number of ways you can help your friends and relatives battle mental health at a time when creativity, togetherness, and strength of spirit were priceless than ever.
Make a friendly phone call
According to Age UK, there are more than 2 million people over the age of 75 living alone in England and more than a million elderly people say they do not speak to a friend, neighbor or family member for over a month. The elderly are particularly prone to loneliness and social isolation, which can seriously affect their health. Calling your elderly relative to hear a friendly and familiar voice can make a huge difference to my overall health. A little goes a long way and one phone call shows that you care and gives you the opportunity to share stories, memories and laughs.
Enter a live supervisor
If you feel that your older relative is really having trouble alone and may need practical help, care, and companionship, then a Caregiver can only be the answer. With different types of care available in care like; Fellowship care, night care, and general life in care, a caregiver can provide company, support and friendship to those who need a helping hand. Should your relative struggle with independence, mobility, cognitive function, or other physical abilities, a caregiver can be there for your loved one anytime, day or night. Specially trained caregivers provide comfort and security, as well as a friendly face to enjoy meals and spend time with.
Introduce them to new helplines
If your loved ones are particularly struggling with loneliness due to self-isolation or isolation and need more communication than you can give, put them in support networks such as Friends of the elderly or Silver line can bridge the gap more frequently to weekly or fortnightly friendship calls from volunteers who enjoy speaking to older people.
Talking to someone who is new or meeting someone has been shown to have a positive impact on our cognitive function and can be a real boost for an older person.
Source interesting games or puzzles
Playing and playing puzzles can be an effective way to bond with someone and distract them when they are struggling with loneliness or mental health issues. Games provide escape and can be good for cognitive function as the brain is challenged in new ways. Games and puzzles also encourage interaction and can be great conversation starters for both you and your loved one to see how they deal with their new challenge. If you lived with a caregiver, you would be the perfect opponent! Otherwise, if your loved one is tech savvy, a Facetime or online virtual quiz could be the answer.
Encourage them to stay active at home
Whether you take the time to stretch, go for a walk in the garden, or do simple chair exercises, staying active as you get older is important. When your loved one is physically able to do so, encourage them to engage in carefree and simple activities that they can do at home. There are many reasons why physical activity is good for your body – having a healthy heart and improving your joints and bones are just two reasons, but physical activity is also good for your mental health and wellbeing. Even 10 minutes of light exercise can increase your mental alertness, energy levels, and general mood.
Reach out to charities
Loneliness in the elderly is not a new problem, and there are many organizations and charities out there that are helping to solve the problem:
- Age UK has a network of local Age UK groups across the country who offer their support in a variety of ways to meet the needs of your loved ones. An active friend can help someone become more physically active, and a freezer can visit someone who lives alone.
- Contact the Elderly hosts monthly Sunday afternoon tea parties for those over 75
- Independent Age puts you with a volunteer whom you can then visit for regular coffees and chats.
- The Royal Voluntary Service helps older people with small tasks like shopping, walking their dog or delivering meals.
A simple but effective way to connect with a loved one and combat their loneliness or fear is to connect with a gift. Maybe send a card, some flowers, or choose a gift with a meaning that resonates with them. This can help your elderly loved ones remember that you are there for them, even if you cannot spend time with them right now. The gift could also provide stimuli and distractions, such as a good book or craft activities, that they enjoy.