Not many of us have lived through times like these before. Cathy Snead, Senior Life Solutions Therapist for Ringgold County Hospital, outlined some strategies for keeping you and your family mentally strong.
Children have become isolated from some friends and family. Routines have changed, they’re fearful of the virus, and are often spending too much time in front of a computer. Parents can start with the basics and provide a healthy diet and time for exercise and p l a y . “Parents should watch for behavior changes like wanting more time alone, Solutions Therapist acting out verbally, or behavioral outbursts,” said Cathy. “If you are aware of these kinds of changes, seek out expert help as early as possible. Ask a counselor for advice on how to speak with your child. It’s important to listen openly and to encourage them to feel safe asking for and accepting help.”
Children are not the only ones affected. Parents are being pulled in many directions as they try to work from home while they tend to children and perhaps elderly parents as well. If you or your spouse are experiencing mood changes, wanting to isolate, having crying spells, or are having difficulty concentrating, it’s most likely stress related. Along with counseling, Cathy recommends self-care. “Self-care is being aware of your personal needs,” she explains. “It’s important to make time for yourself to prevent burnout and fatigue during stressful times.” She adds that it’s normal to feel depressed occasionally, but if it continues for extended periods of time, seeking professional help is a good plan. “I suggest they start with their primary care physician to rule out a medical complication,” advised Cathy. “If there are no medical concerns, a mental health professional can help identify techniques and strategies that will work best for the individual.”
Seniors are being isolated for the sake of their own physical health, whether they’re in assisted living or in their own homes. They’re missing church, social activities, family visits, and regular meals and routines. According to Cathy, depression in seniors can be mild, evidenced by a low mood, lack of interest in activities they used to enjoy, or insomnia. Major depression affects a person’s thinking and can have them overstressing the negative, having inflexible rules, and taking responsibility for bad events. “Seniors may also experience generalized anxiety, chronic worry, while feeling uptight and restless,” she added. “These are all symptoms that can be exasperated by experiencing the current pandemic.” Friends and family members can offer emotional support and encouragement by listening with intent, offering to take the depressed person to the doctor or medical provider, and sharing validation for their feelings. It’s clear that mental health is as important as physical health. During these trying times, it’s critical that we keep our eyes on each other and watch for signs of stress and anxiety. If you or an older adult need help, or to speak to a professional, contact Senior Life Solutions at 641-464-4468.