Mental Health Advice for Adults Ages 60+
The care of seniors with serious mental illness most often falls on the shoulders of grown children, nieces, nephews or younger siblings. The challenges faced parallel those dealing with a relative suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s. Some of the behavioral symptoms overlap and others don’t. What’s shared is society’s compassion and understanding. People understand how difficult caring for aging relatives can be. Family members are able find comfort in caregiver support groups as well as through friends and extended family. This may be the one age group family members benefit from the most outside support.
There is certainly an emotional toll on adult children who have spent most of their lives being an anchor of stability for their ill parent. In some cases even having to manage housing, finances and raising younger siblings. Being the parent of your own parent is hard. These later years? If you are open to it, it can be a gift. Utilizing the softening of societal stigma around this population and the support it allows, this time can be an opportunity for healing.
Society as a whole might be more compassionate to family members of these seniors, but unfortunately not as compassionate with the seniors themselves. As a result they really need your support and advocacy. Recognizing your own limits is still critical. Do not give from an empty cup. Remember to fuel yourself first. You can make a difference in their lives.
One big thing is physical Illness or complaints of pain. These complaints can be sidelined or dismissed as psychological. Patients with a history of delusions or hypochondria are particularly vulnerable here. This can be dangerous as more serious causes are left unexplored. Documenting for your relative or helping them do so for themselves all of their appointments, ailments and medical concerns can a big help to all involved. I recommend a binder to organize the most recent hospital visits, diagnosis, medications and testing. You can keep a section at the front with a list of questions you have as they arise. Be sure to bring the binder with you to all appointments. Always tried to be well prepared.
Again, it is always OK to question your loved one’s treatment or diagnosis. Doctors are humans too. They make mistakes, miss things and don’t always have time to get all the information. Documenting, researching and organizing important information for them can be really helpful. Do not let yourself get too carried away with it though. Remember they are the experts on the medical side. You are the expert on your loved one. Working together will yield your loved one the absolute best care.