Most everyone looks forward to retirement. Whether it’s spending more time with loved ones or traveling the world, we all want to experience our golden years with as much comfort and independence as possible. However, for a growing number of seniors, mental illness has become a serious threat to their overall well-being. While the aging population should be enjoying their next chapter, many find it stressful, depressing and difficult to adapt to the changes. The severity of mental disorders associated with aging varies as do the available treatment and management options.
What happens to your brain as you get older and how can you keep your mental state a healthy one?
The Aging Brain
Just like the rest of your body, your brain transforms in fascinating ways over the course of your lifetime. However, not all these changes are normal. Many of us expect to grow more forgetful, clumsy, and maybe even a little grumpy, but cognitive decline can be prevented. Before looking at ways to keep your mind sharp, it’s important to first recognize the causes of cognitive decline and the potential illnesses that can result.
Possible causes of mental illness among the elderly
- Chronic disease, physical impairment, or pain – No longer feeling as vital or capable can have negative effects on your psyche, especially if you were formerly quite active.
- Grief, loneliness, or significant life changes – The loss of a loved one or overwhelming feelings associated with moving into assisted living can sometimes trigger mental disorders.
- Pharmaceutical interactions – Certain medications don’t mix well and can directly alter your mindset or behavior.
Common illnesses and mental disorders
- Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease – Alzheimer’s is a form of dementia, both of which are characterized by the inability to recall basic information and formulate coherent thoughts. These conditions are often accompanied by negative, strange, or atypical behavior.
- Depression and anxiety – These are two of the most common mental illnesses affecting adults worldwide. They can be tricky to distinguish, so be sure to ask your doctor.
- Suicide – Without receiving adequate support, seniors are at greater risk for developing suicidal tendencies.
- Chronic disease – Chronic disease can both be a cause and a result of mental illness. Physical and mental health are intricately connected. Neglecting one can have detrimental effects on the other and vice versa.
These issues are all disconcerting, but there are a few things you can do to help avoid cognitive decline.
- Stay active, both physically and intellectually. Go for walks, stretch regularly, read books, and do puzzles to exercise your body and mind.
- Eat healthy and see your doctor regularly. Be sure to take any medications exactly as prescribed, and report any side effects as soon as you notice them.
- Develop routines to boost your memory. Keeping your medication in the same place and taking it at the same time each day will reduce the likelihood that you’ll miss a dose.
- Spend time with people who are younger than you. Whether they’re your relatives, fellow volunteers, members of a book club, etc., maintaining close ties with people from different generations can expose you to new ideas and experiences, and make you feel younger, too.
- Minimize stress through activities you find relaxing, such as yoga, painting, or singing. Stress is connected to depression and anxiety, and, if prolonged, is known to be damaging to memory and cognition.
To find out more about strategies for promoting good mental health, supporting a loved one with mental illness, or any other whole-body health related issues, contact the expert team at Smart Health & Wellness Centers!