Mental health in older adults is a significant and frequently misunderstood issue. It can be difficult for people to distinguish mental health symptoms from conditions such as dementia. It can also be difficult for older adults themselves to understand what aspects are normal signs of aging, and what are symptoms of a deeper mental health issue.
The depth of the problem is that the likelihood of experiencing a mental health problem in a given year increases after a person turns 69. It has been determined that maintaining good mental health can help older adults stay physically healthy for longer, which shows just how important it is. Mental health intersects with and is influenced by a variety of aspects, from internal physical, social, emotional, and spiritual factors, to external factors like income, mobility, housing, and access to services.
Health Canada established a National Framework on Aging that recognizes independence, dignity, fairness, security, and participation as five principles that can promote quality of life and well-being in older adults. Personal Support Workers can help foster an environment in which these principles are prioritized, thus improving older adults’ mental health. Read on for more information.
With PSW Training, Learn How to Effectively Communicate with Clients
To accommodate the principles of fairness, participation, and feelings of security, it’s important that professionals with PSW training practice active listening with their clients. Making sure that older adults feel heard, respected, and attended to can make strides in protecting their mental health. Active listening is a conversational practice where the listener places their complete attention on the person speaking. It’s used commonly by counsellors and therapists and can be useful for personal support workers.
Another way PSWs can help protect older adults’ mental health is by involving them in decision-making processes. They should be treated as adults with agency and informed of any changes in their routine or life structure. Helping them meaningfully participate in the direction of their lives, even on a superficial level, can help foster feelings of independence and dignity.
Guard Against the Appearance of Depression in Older Adults
Depression is the most common health problem in older adults. With disruption to their typical routines, increased isolation, and decreased agility, older clients are particularly susceptible to periods of depression. Depression in older adults is associated with a greater risk of illness, decreased quality of life, and a decline of functionality, making it a serious problem. However, it can be difficult to spot the signs.
A trained graduate of personal support worker courses will know how to monitor clients and spot changes that should be mentioned to other healthcare professionals. PSWs should frequently assess older adults who have already experienced depression for a recurrence, as well as those who have had strokes previously, as depression is a relatively common complication. Taking care to attend to clients’ psychosocial needs and educating them and their families on depression and its signs are all great ways to build a well-rounded approach to guarding against the mental illness.
Help Older Adults Live with Dignity
Dignity is an important part of the National Framework on Aging. Luckily, much of a personal support worker’s job is involved in helping clients live with dignity. These professionals help older adults settle into a routine and maintain a schedule that helps them maintain their dignity as they continue to age.
A day in the life of a PSW consists of such activities as helping older adults attend to their personal hygiene, get dressed, keep their rooms clean and organized, and otherwise attend to any needs that may arise. Assisting them in eating their meals at regular times and facilitating interaction with other older adults also help improve their dignity. All these factors can come together to build a robust shield against mental health problems.
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