Older Americans Experiencing Mental Health Issues

Americans are getting older. Currently, about 15 percent of the population are 60 and over. By 2050 Americans 60 and over will comprise about 25 percent.

With the aging of our population, we are seeing an increase in the number of people dealing with depression and other mental health disorders. Several factors are contributing to older individuals experiencing depression. As people get older many of their friends are passing away, leaving them with fewer or no friends with whom to socialize.

When someone retires they may begin to feel less valued compared to when they had a job and interacted regularly with others. Isolation is also a contributing factor as individuals find themselves in assisted living or nursing homes. The onset of diabetes and osteoarthritis may also contribute to depression. With retirement and isolation many people find themselves with financial difficulties, unable to pay for doctor visits, medication, and food.

Another problem facing many aging individuals is that not every general practitioner and psychiatrist is specially trained in geriatric mental illness. Consequently, some believe that doctors misdiagnose the elderly 50 percent of the time. Without special geriatric mental illness training, some doctors may diagnose a patient as having dementia when depression or other illness may be the actual problem. It is vital that people ask their health care providers if they are adequately trained to treat mental illness with the elderly.

While Medicare pays 80 percent of physical medical treatment, but pays only 50 percent of mental health treatment. This serves as an insurmountable obstacle in receiving the help many seniors need.

If you see an elderly loved one struggling with prolonged sadness, financial difficulties, trouble sleeping, excessive alcohol use or taking more meds than prescribed, or loss of interest in family and socializing, seek help from a qualified health care provider.

Properly diagnosed and medicated, our seniors can continue to live happy, productive lives in retirement.

The Benefits of Attending Peer Support Group Meetings

The primary function of Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance is to provide free peer-led support groups for people living with a mood disorder. There are many benefits from attending a peer support group meeting.

The most important benefit is that you learn you are not alone. You’ll meet and interact with others with similar situations. You’ll learn new coping skills from others that are leading productive lives even though they deal with depression or other disorder.

Research funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) show that people who attend peer support meetings tend to eliminate the need to be re-admitted to a mental hospital. It is believed that your recovery is strengthened when you regularly attend support group meetings.

Another benefit from attending support group meetings is it helps you to socialize safely with others, and it gets you out of the house. Being with others like you can give you a refreshed sense of well-being, and can help build your self-esteem.

By regularly attending peer support group meetings you’re less likely to view yourself through a lens of stigma, and more likely to view yourself empowered to live successfully.

Locate a support group near you by visiting http://www.dbsaok.org/support.

Optimum Diet for Mental Health

Following an optimum diet, in addition to medication and other therapies, can enhance living with a mental illness. The goal is to eat as healthily as possible. There are foods that should be avoided and foods that should be added to one’s diet.

Among the foods to avoid are sugary drinks such as sodas and many fruit juices, highly processed foods that contain ingredients that are actually chemicals that cannot be pronounced, and salty foods such as chips and other snacks. Most fried foods should also be avoided.

If you are living with depression it is also advisable to avoid alcoholic drinks since alcohol is a depressant that can make matters worse.

Foods that are beneficial include fresh fruits and vegetables. If you think fresh vegetables will spoil before you can eat them, consider buying frozen vegetables since they are minimally processed and do not contain added salts and sugars.

Oily fish high in Omega 3 fatty acids like salmon, trout and mackerel are excellent replacements for red meat. Leafy greens such as spinach and kale are also nutritious, as are unsalted nuts like almonds and cashews. Beans are a great source of protein that also helps reduce or maintain healthy cholesterol levels.

When grocery shopping it is best to stay on the perimeter of the store where produce, dairy and frozen vegetables are found. Avoid many of the interior aisles where salty and sugary snacks and highly processed foods are located. A good rule of thumb is to select items that have five or less ingredients. (It is a good idea to take a magnifying glass to the store to make it easier to read the ingredient list on packages).

Finally, it is best to never skip breakfast. Eating breakfast high in whole grains helps fuel your body throughout the day. It takes practice and trial and error in finding an eating regimen that is both satisfying and beneficial.

It is recommended that you discuss your specific medications and recommended diet with your healthcare provider before making major changes.

Eating healthily can help you feel better while nurturing your body and mind.

Walking Toward Wellness

Walking is an ideal way to enhance mental health. It’s the easiest, cheapest, best way to achieve heart health, as well as improve one’s mood. There’s no special equipment to buy or a gym to join. All you need is a sturdy pair of shoes and a safe place to walk.

The American Heart Association recommends walking 30-minutes every day. Others suggest we need to walk 10,000 steps a day recorded on a pedometer (that’s 5 miles!). Thirty minutes is a great target. Just open your front door and walk away for 15 minutes then turn around and walk back home.

The act of getting up to move; the act of getting outside the door; the act of seeing new surroundings all contribute to feeling better. As you walk, take in all that is there to be seen. Be aware of nature all around you.

If you make walking 30 minutes a daily habit, you’ll soon discover that you’re losing unwanted weight. Many malls allow people to walk the mall. They’re a perfect place to walk if it’s too cold or hot outside. City parks are also great places to walk. Check your local government for walking and biking trails.

Having a walking partner can make this exercise even more enjoyable. The best thing about stepping toward wellness is it’s free, and the benefits are immediate. Get outside. Put one foot in front of the other and have some fun.

Walk your way to better!